Comm Eye Health Vol. 12 No. 31 1999 pp 48. Published online 01 September 1999.

Letter. Blindness provoked by locally-produced antibiotic eyewash

Dr Martin Stagles, Mr Jean-Jacques Ekotto, Mrs Sarah Nkoum

Hopital Central d'Enongal, BP 91, Ebolowa, Cameroon

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Dear Sir

In order to alert other eye departments, we present the case of a man aged 46 who was blinded by locally-produced antibiotic eyewash.

The patient was living in Gabon, and in May 1997 he suffered from irritation of his eyes. He attended a general hospital in Gabon, where he was provided with penicillin and tetracycline in powder form, to mix in boiled water and to use as an eyewash. It was very painful and he lost his vision. He came to the eye clinic at Enongal, Cameroon (the closest eye department, despite being in another country) on 10th November 1997. We found:

Visual acuities:

  • Right: – no perception of light
  • Left: – hand movements

Right eye: cornea completely scarred

Left eye: thick scar upper cornea; lower cornea clear, but endothelium easily seen at x 10 magnification: many posterior synechiae dense cataract: IOP 21mm Hg (applanation tonometry)

We imagine that the eyewash was very hypertonic and alkaline. This misfortune emphasises the need for care and precision in the local production of topical eye medicines.