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June 1995

Sudden Visual Loss Associated With Sexual Activity

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology, The Eye and Ear Institute, University of Pittsburgh (Pa) (Dr Friberg); The University of Medicine and Dentistry, Newark, NJ (Dr Braunstein); and The Wilmer Institute, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md (Dr Bressler).

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(6):738-742. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100060064033

Objective:  To characterize the ocular fundus findings of patients who suffered sudden visual loss associated with sexual activity.

Design:  Case series.

Setting:  Outpatient ophthalmic practice.

Patients:  Six patients presented with a precipitous decrease in vision in one eye with no apparent predisposing factors. After obtaining a careful history, each patient revealed that he or she had been engaging in rigorous sexual activity immediately before experiencing the visual loss.

Intervention:  Five of the six patients were followed up without intervention. One patient required prophylactic laser photocoagulation of a retinal tear to decrease the risk of retinal detachment.

Results:  Six patients aged 24 to 53 years suffered sudden loss of vision secondary to intraretinal, preretinal, or vitreous hemorrhaging. Visual acuity in the affected eyes ranged from a mild decrease (20/40) to profound visual loss (counting fingers at 6 in). Five of the six patients were followed up for at least 1 month and showed spontaneous improvement in vision as the blood cleared. Those who returned for long-term follow-up enjoyed complete visual recovery without any sequelae.

Conclusions:  Sudden debilitating visual loss may occur during sexual activity from the rupture of retinal blood vessels in the macular region or from the development of vitreous bleeding from an induced retinal tear. The longterm prognosis after such hemorrhaging appears to be excellent, with good visual recovery occurring as the blood resorbs spontaneously.

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