Ebola survivor Dr. Ian Crozier wasn't the only American to experience eye problems following the disease â€” a new report describes eye problems in another American doctor who lived through the disease.
Dr. Richard Sacra, who works for the Christian mission organization SIM USA, contracted Ebola last year while caring for pregnant women in Liberia during the rise of the Ebola outbreak there. He was evacuated to the United States for treatment in early September 2014, & was declared Ebola-free after spending approximately a month in the hospital.
But approximately two weeks after he was released from the hospital, Sacra reported vision loss, pain, redness & sensitivity to light in his left eye. An examination showed a slight swelling of his cornea, & there were white blood cells in the space between the outer covering & the iris in his eye, the report said. Sacra was given a topical corticosteroid to apply to his eye every hour while he was awake.
p> But Sacra's vision worsened, & he was given an oral corticosteroid, called prednisone. Within a week, his condition improved, & by March 2015, he had no symptoms & had 20-20 vision, the report said.
The researchers said they hope the case will spark interest in developing standard guidelines for identifying & treating eye problems in Ebola survivors.
"As there are more Ebola survivors, we're probably going to see a significant amount of ocular complications," said study researcher Dr. Olga CerÃ³n, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who treated Sacra. "If you catch [the problems] early on, you can really reverse & potentially prevent these vision complications," CerÃ³n told Live Science. [What Are the Long-Term Effects of Ebola?]
Doctors were concerned that Sacra might still be able to spread Ebola to other people if he was shedding the virus from his eye. However, a test of the membrane that covers the front of the eye & the inside of the eyelid was negative for the virus.
Another American Ebola survivor, Dr. Ian Crozier, moreover had serious eye problems after he was declared Ebola-free, including blurry vision, pain & pressure in his left eye. At one point, his eye even changed color, from blue to green.
Tests showed that the Ebola virus was still in his eye's aqueous humor, the fluid between the eye's outer covering & the lens. Doctors suspected that Crozier's eye problems were a direct effect of the Ebola virus, which persisted in his eye fluid despite being cleared from most of his body.
Sacra experienced his eye problems a few months before Crozier did, although the details of Sacra's case are only just now being reported.
However, in Sacra's case, doctors never tested the aqueous humor for Ebola virus, because Sacra's eye problems improved when he was given the corticosteroid treatment, CerÃ³n said. So doctors don't know if the Ebola virus was still lingering inside Sacra's eye.
Sacra's doctors hypothesize that an immune response to the virus likely caused his eye symptoms. Tests showed a significant increase in markers of inflammation in his body, which is a sign of a robust immune response. The white blood cells in Sacra's eye were moreover a sign of inflammation, CerÃ³n said. However, the doctors cannot rule out that the virus was the direct cause of the eye problems.
The findings moreover suggest that doing more-invasive procedures to take samples from the inside of patients' eyes to test for Ebola "might not be necessary in patients who clinically improve with medical therapy," the report said.
The study was published online Nov. 22 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. FollowÂ Live Science @livescience, FacebookÂ & Google+. Original article on Live Science.
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