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Ocular abnormalities in thin basement membrane disease
  1. Deb Colvillea,
  2. Judy Savigea,
  3. Pauline Branleya,
  4. Diane Wilsonb
  1. aOphthalmology Unit, University Department of Medicine and Renal Unit, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Victoria, Australia, bBox Hill Hospital, Box Hill, Victoria, Australia
  1. Dr Judy Savige, University Department of Medicine, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084, Australia.


AIM/BACKGROUND Alport syndrome is an X linked disease that results in renal failure, deafness, and ocular abnormalities including a dot and fleck retinopathy and anterior lenticonus. The ultrastructural appearance of the glomerular basement membrane in thin basement membrane disease (TBMD) resembles that seen in some patients with Alport syndrome, and in some cases this disease is inherited too. The aim of this study was to determine whether patients with TBMD have any ocular abnormalities.

METHODS The eyes of 17 unrelated individuals with TBMD were studied by slit-lamp, including biomicroscopic fundus examination with a 78 D lens, by direct ophthalmoscopy, and by fundal photographs. The findings were compared with those in patients with IgA glomerulonephritis or Alport syndrome, and in normals.

RESULTS No patient with TBMD had a dot and fleck retinopathy or anterior lenticonus. A corneal dystrophy (n = 2) or pigmentation (n = 1), and retinal pigment epithelial clumping and maculopathy (n = 1) were noted. Corneal, lens, and retinal dots were found in five (29%), three (18%), and 16 (94%) patients, respectively, but these were also demonstrated in individuals with other renal diseases and in normal individuals.

CONCLUSIONS The dot and fleck retinopathy and anterior lenticonus typical of Alport syndrome do not occur in TBMD. The protein abnormality and genetic defect in TBMD are not known, but the lack of ocular lesions suggests that the abnormal protein in this disease is more sparsely distributed or less important in the basement membranes of the eye than of the kidney. Alternatively, the protein may be less affected by the mutations responsible for TBMD.

  • Alport syndrome
  • drusen
  • glomerular basement membrane
  • thin basement membrane disease

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