Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation

: 2008  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 751--755

Ocular Disorders in Renal Transplant Patients

Farzan Kian-Ersi, Shahram Taheri, Mohammad Reza Akhlaghi 
 Esfahan Medical University, Esfahan Eye Research Center, Iran

Correspondence Address:
Mohammad Reza Akhlaghi
Feiz Hospital, Ghods Square, Modarres Street, Esfahan


This cross-sectional study was performed to determine ocular findings in renal transplant recipients and to correlate them with certain clinical characteristics related to transplantation. The study was performed on 150 patients who had received a renal transplant at least three months earlier and had serum creatinine levels < 3 mg/dL. All patients underwent a complete ophthalmologic examination. Clinical variables studied related to the transplant included cause of renal failure, duration of hemodialysis prior to transplantation and immunosuppressive regimen. Overall, 91 male and 59 female subjects with a mean age of 39.9 ± 17.7 years were included. At least one ocular abnormality could be detected in 89.3% including impaired visual acuity 0 20/25 (48.6%), conjunctival degeneration in the palpebral fissure (36.6%), posterior sub­capsular cataracts (24%), pinguecula (17.3%), retinal pigment epitheliopathy (14%), arteriovenous crossing changes (8.6%), proliferative diabetic retinopathy (6%), central serous chorioretinopathy and retinal vein occlusions (each in 3.3%), and non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, optic nerve atrophy and diabetic macular edema (each in 2.7%). Abnormal ocular findings were not correlated with the underlying renal disorder or use of cyclosporine and prednisolone; however, they were positively correlated with transplant duration, pre-transplant dialysis duration and usage of azathioprine or mycophenolate mofetil. Our study suggests that ocular disorders are frequent among renal transplant patients especially with older transplants and those with a longer period of pre-transplant hemodialysis.

How to cite this article:
Kian-Ersi F, Taheri S, Akhlaghi MR. Ocular Disorders in Renal Transplant Patients.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2008;19:751-755

How to cite this URL:
Kian-Ersi F, Taheri S, Akhlaghi MR. Ocular Disorders in Renal Transplant Patients. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2008 [cited 2021 Dec 9 ];19:751-755
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Full Text


Advances in surgical technique and develop­ment of more effective immunosuppressive agents have rendered kidney transplantation an effective renal replacement therapy. Nowadays, patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have better survival rates and enjoy improved quality of life after renal transplantation. [1] Ocular complications following renal trans­plantation are mainly secondary to the cause of the underlying renal disease, accumulation of noxious materials, cytomegalovirus infection and immunosuppressive therapy. These factors can result in significant ocular morbidity secon­dary to conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, hypertensive retinopathy, conjunctival deposits, and drug-induced retinitis. [2] Management of ocular complications in renal transplant patients can decrease morbidity and improve their quality of life. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of ocular abnorma­lities in renal transplant patients and to correlate them with the underlying cause of renal insufficiency, transplant duration, dura­tion of pre-transplantation dialysis and immuno­suppressive regimen.


Between February and November 2004, renal transplant patients being followed-up at the Nephrology Clinic of Feiz Hospital, Isfahan, Iran were referred for a comprehensive ophthalmologic examination. Only patients who had completed at least three months post­transplantation and had serum creatinine levels less than 3 mg/dL were included in the study. After obtaining informed consent, all patients underwent a complete ocular examination including autorefraction, best corrected Snellen visual acuity (BCVA), ocular motility and external examination, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, applanation tonometry and fundoscopy using a non-contact 78 D lens following pupil dilation with tropicamide 1% in hypertensive patients or tropicamide 1% and phenylephrine 5% in normo­tensive subjects. A vitreoretinal subspecialist performed all ocular examinations. Ocular findings were classified as diabetes related complications including clinically significant macular edema, non-proliferative diabetic retino­pathy and proliferative diabetic retinopathy; and non-diabetes related complications. Previous nephrologic history including underlying disease causing ESRD, post-transplant duration, dura­tion of pretransplant dialysis and immuno­suppressive regimen were recorded. Data were analyzed using Mann-Whitney U and Chi square tests for comparing differences in mean values and frequencies, respectively. Statistical signi­ficance was set at p per se. HTN was the most prevalent underlying etiology of chronic renal failure; however it could have been the result of the renal disease. Based on previous reports, the most common cause of renal failure is diabetes mellitus followed by HTN. [3] Subnormal visual acuity (BCVA [4] in which most cases had BCVA of 20/20. The most frequent anatomical disorders in the present study were conjunctival degenerations and depositions (36.7%). This complication has not been addressed much in other studies. Conjunctival degenerative lesions often result from ultra­violet radiation, [5] but in renal transplant patients they seem to be mainly correlated with hemo­dialysis. These conjunctival lesions may result from accumulation of toxic materials in the body. We found a significant relationship between this complication and pretransplant duration of dialysis.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts were the next most prevalent complication (30%) in the pre­sent study group. The incidence of this com­plication varies from 5 to 62.5% in different studies. [2],[4],[6] Early studies have reported a dose­ dependent relationship between corticosteroid treatment and cataracts; however, with the in­creased use of cyclosporine, evidence suppor­ting this relationship is weak. [7] Some studies have also reported a direct dose-dependent relationship between steroid treatment and seve­rity of cataract. [8] We did not find any signi­ficant relationship between the use of oral prednisolone and cataracts. This observation may be due to the early tapering of dose of prednisolone as a result of co-administration of immunosuppressive agents.

Our study showed a decrease in ocular com­plications by increasing the number of immuno­suppressive agents; thus, all patients who received single drug therapy versus 86.9% of patients who received triple drug therapy, had ocular abnormalities. Although IOP rise is a common side effect of topical steroids, sys­temic corticosteroid treatment rarely causes glaucoma. [9],[10] Based on the current series and similar studies [2],[4] the rate of IOP rise secondary to systemic corticosteroids in renal transplant patients does not seem to be higher than the general population. However keeping in mind other reports on the relatively high incidence of IOP rise, [6],[11] special attention is necessary in these particular cases. We found non-glauco­matous optic disc changes in 2.7% of our patients which is consistent with other studies. [2]

Our study as well as others [2] showed that certain ocular complications are directly rela­ted to post-transplant survival. The strongest association was seen between CSCR and post­transplant survival which may indicate a direct relation between renal transplantation and CSCR. In a study on 60 CSCR patients, three cases (5%) had previously undergone renal transplantation [12] which also suggests a rela­tionship between these two entities. In conclusion, the incidence of ocular com­plication in renal transplant patients is rela­tively high. Although most complications are not sight-threatening, regular ophthalmic exa­ mination can result in early detection, better management and improved quality of life.


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