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Ocular Adverse Effects of Systemic Medications: Amiodarone

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Title: Ocular Adverse Effects of Systemic Medications: Amiodarone
Author: Emily Ross, 4th Year Medical Student, Indiana University School of Medicine
Location: Med Student Outline > II. Anatomical Approach to Eye Disease > Ocular Adverse Effects of Systemic Medications > 3. Amiodarone

Overview: Amiodarone is a Class III antiarrhythmic medication that slows repolarization of the myocardium which increases the action potential duration and the refractory period, thus slowing the cardiac conduction rate. It is used to treat certain tachyarrhythmias. Long-term use is associated with the following ocular adverse effects.

Image 1: Corneal Verticillata

Corneal verticillata: Also known as vortex keratopathy, occurs in almost all patients who take amiodarone and is related to the dosage of the medication and duration of treatment. It is the most common and most well-known ocular adverse effect of amiodarone. On slit lamp exam, one can see corneal deposits in a whorl-like pattern in the inferior cornea bilaterally (see image 1). The deposits are usually a gray or golden-brown color and accumulate in the basal layer of the corneal epithelium. This is a benign condition and patients usually do not have any visual complaints.  Rarely, they report colored rings around lights, haloes and glare which are worse at night. The condition is reversible with discontinuation of the drug. Notably other medications may also cause corneal verticillata including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, indomethacin, and phenothiazines and is also seen in Fabry’s disease.

Lens opacities can occur in the anterior cortex of the lens. These are due to pigment deposition and are small and yellowish-white in color. They do not reverse with discontinuation of amiodarone but rarely cause any visual disturbance.

Optic neuropathy is a very rare but serious side effect of long-term amiodarone use. It tends to progress slowly with resulting vision loss. Patients taking amiodarone should have yearly check-ups with an ophthalmologist to monitor for development of optic neuropathy as discontinuing the drug stabilizes the patient’s vision.


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Identifier: Moran_CORE_24549