Star-shaped cataracts developed in a 42 year-old male electrician after receiving an electrocution during a freak accident while working. This case was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A cataract is where a clouding of the eyes takes form. It usually occurs with time in aging populations where the patient views cloudy images, sensitivity to light and amongst many other symptoms. It may also occur in those patients who suffer from diabetes mellitus, which may lead to blindness. However, in this man’s situation, he was an electrician and received it through an electric shock.
The man was working when the current contacted his left shoulder, which left his eyes with an imprint of star-shaped cataracts. The man received an electrocution of 14,000 volts which traveled throughout his body, including the optic nerve. Talk about a body shock! The optic nerve is responsible for the sense of sight and is located between the brain and the eyes.
The man complained of vision problems four weeks post-accident. He was then seen by Dr. Bobby Korn, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Korn explained that the high current left the optic nerve damaged. It is not fully understood why cataracts take a star shape after receiving an electric shock. There have been some experimentation on animal models which have been subjected to electrocution. The results are small bubbles called vacuoles. These vacuoles at some point merge to form star-shaped cataracts.
Four months later, the man went for surgery to remove the cataracts and replace the lens with a new pair. His vision improved, however it was not fully restored to the time before the accident. Dr. Korn explained that the man’s vision will never be fully restored due to the damage at the optic nerve. Even though his lens were replaced during the surgery for the cataracts, his eyesight remained limited.
“Then you’ll never get a good picture,” Korn said. He described the eye to a camera. If the lens of a camera is damaged then it can easily be replaced with another lens. The quality of the pictures remains the same and no damage is permanent. This would be in reference to a cataract that normally occurs with age. However, if the film is damaged in a camera, then nothing can be done to obtain good quality pictures. The film is in reference to the optic nerve being damaged, which is in the case of the electrician who received the electrocution.
Despite the man’s limitations, he is able to travel by public transportation and is able to take classes at a community college with assistance. Fortunately, Korn has mentioned that the man is able to lead a relatively normal life.
Apparently, the electrician isn’t the only one with such a case of the star-shaped cataracts. Last year in Austria, a man developed star-shaped cataracts after being punched. The 55 year-old man went to see a doctor after deterioration of his vision. “Nature has made a beautiful cataract… most aren’t so pretty,” mentioned Dr. Mark Fromer, the 55 year-old man’s doctor. The star-shaped cataracts that develop after receiving an electrocution draw the awe from people who see them.
By Moeen Shaikh