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August 1978

Ocular Involvement in Whipple's DiseaseLight and Electron Microscopic Observations

Author Affiliations

From the Registry of Ophthalmic Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC (Drs Font and Rao), and the Pathology and Neurology Services, Veterans Administration Hospital, and the Department of Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI (Drs Issarescu and McEntee).

Arch Ophthalmol. 1978;96(8):1431-1436. doi:10.1001/archopht.1978.03910060179016

• A 52-year-old man had a prolonged history of nondeforming migratory polyarthritis and a short episode of pericarditis preceding the onset of bilateral vitreitis and retinitis. The clinical course was characterized by progressive deterioration of vision, increasing lethargy, and dementia, leading to coma and death from pneumonia (21 months later). No intestinal manifestations were recorded. Both eyes, which were removed postmortem, disclosed numerous PAS-positive macrophages throughout the inner retina and vitreous. Electron microscopic studies of the macrophages displayed intracytoplasmic, degenerating, rod-shaped bacteria and membranous structures identical to those seen in the intestine, brain, heart, and other tissues of patients with Whipple's disease. Clinicians should include Whipple's disease, and reticulum cell sarcoma, in the differential diagnosis of patients with bilateral retinitis and vitreitis, especially if these disorders are associated with CNS manifestations.