Star-Shaped Cataracts

I recently came across an article about a certain man, a 42 year-old electrician who was electrocuted while working.  After the electrocution, the man developed cataracts, which wasn’t surprising.  But what was surprising was that these cataracts was that their shape: star-shaped.  The short case study about this injury was documented by Bobby Korn and star shaped cataractsDon Kikkawa of the University of California, San Diego, and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  During the accident, the man was slammed with 14,000 volts in his left shoulder.  In addition to his other injuries, he developed these unique, star-shaped cataracts.  While cataract surgery would normally have been enough to restore his eyesight, he sustained quite a bit of damage to his retina and optic nerve, resulting in permanent blindness.

Cataracts are cloudiness that accumulates in the lens of the eye.  The now-opaque lens has lost its ability to properly focus light onto the back of the eye on the retina, which decreases vision.  This is usually treated with surgery, although medicated eye drops can also be used to treat or prevent mild cases of cataracts.  Although there is a long list of diseases and risk factors for cataracts, they can be formed from trauma and create a completely different type of cataract.  The star-shape indicates a “stellate cataract”.  These aren’t completely cloudy, and white fractal patterns usually serve as a boundary for the cataract.  Trauma has also been known to produce rosette cataracts, which take on a flowery or feathery appearance.  Such a type of irregular cataract can form right away, although in some cases it takes a couple of years before eyesight is impacted.  These cataracts are formed when the eye has been penetrated, experiences blunt force trauma or is injured indirectly, such as what happened with the electrician.  The shockwave causes injury in the cortex or capsule of the lens, which may be the reason that the cataracts don’t uniformly develop.