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Ultrastructural findings in solar retinopathy


This study documents the ultrastructural findings in a case of solar retinopathy, 6 days after sungazing. A malignant melanoma of the choroid was diagnosed in a 65-year-old man. On fundoscopy, the macula was normal. The patient agreed to stare at the sun prior to enucleation. A typical solar retinopathy developed, characterised by a small, reddish, sharply circumscribed depression in the foveal area. Structural examination of the fovea and parafovea revealed a spectrum of cone and rod outer segment changes including vesiculation and fragmentation of the photoreceptor lamellae and the presence of discrete 100-120 nm whorls within the disc membranes. Many photoreceptor cells, particularly the parafoveal rods, also demonstrated mitochondrial swelling and nuclear pyknosis. Scattered retinal pigment epithelial cells in the fovea and parafovea showed a degeneration characterised by loss of plasma membrane specialisations, swelling of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum and changes in the fine structure of the lipofuscin granules. The good visual prognosis in solar retinopathy was attributed to the resistance of the foveal cone cells to photochemical damage.


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Hope-Ross, M., Mahon, G., Gardiner, T. et al. Ultrastructural findings in solar retinopathy. Eye 7, 29–33 (1993).

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  • Photoreceptors
  • Phototoxicity
  • Retinal pigment epithelium
  • Solar retinopathy
  • Transmission electron microscopy

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