Star-Shaped cataracts caused by an electrical accident have launched a California electrician into the spotlight after photos of the strangely beautiful injuries were reported in the January 23rd issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. While working a job ten years ago the electricians left shoulder came into contact with a circuit carrying more than 14,000 volts of electricity. The massive amount of energy passed through his entire body before dispersing into the ground. Four weeks later he began to suffer from vision loss and underwent tests conducted by an optometrist, that conclusively confirmed the presence of cataracts, but unlike any the optometrist Dr. Korn had ever seen before. Cataracts are cloudy spots on the lens of the eye, which is responsible for focusing light on the retina, which transmits the image through the optic nerve to the brain where it is translated into what we see. The clouding reduces the amount of light that reaches the retina, which leads to blurred or reduced vision. The accident damaged the lenses in the electricians eyes as well as the optic nerve, resulting in the cataracts and poor vision.
The accident occurred over ten years ago, and despite surgery to remove and replace the damaged lenses, the electrician still suffers from poor eye-sight. He is able to commute on public transit and is taking community college courses with assistance, but the damage will likely never be fully repaired. Dr. Korn explains that when he was subjected to the massive burst of electricity, some of the current passed along the optic nerve, which works like any other electrical wire. However, the optic nerve is only built to handle the minute electrical pulses the brain needs to create an image from what the eye sees, and so it was overloaded and damaged. This is the same effect that results in a copper wire that is forced to carry too much load ever heating and melting. The result is vision problems that cannot be solved by replacing the lens of the victims eyes, even though the star-shaped cataracts caused by an electrical accident have been removed.
The California electricians star-shaped cataracts caused by an electrical accident is an unfortunate victim in a fascinating case of the things the human body is capable of. Given the massive amount of electricity he was exposed to, surviving with only star-shaped cataracts is a miracle. The exact cause of cataracts remains unknown, but research in animal cases has revealed that the actual clouding of the retina is caused by miniscule bubbles. In the case of electrical contact, it is believed that electricity’s tendency to arc between points of conductivity is the cause for the star pattern. Small imperfections in the mans eyes may have resulted in areas with less electrical resistance than others, resulting the energy burning bubbles in lines between the points of contact. The symmetrical pattern of the cataracts suggests that the differing thicknesses between the edges and the center of the lens may have influenced the way the electricity traveled through the mans eyes, resulting in the eye-catching injury.
By Daniel O’Brien