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Dr. Dan B.
Dr. Dan B., Board Certified Ophthalmologist
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Experience:  Eye surgeon experienced in cataracts, glaucoma, retina & neuro-ophthalmology
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he developed what the doctors called a sever viral eye infection

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My husband served in Viet Nam from 1967-1968. During that time he was subjected to Agent Orange on two occasions. Shortly there after he developed what the doctors called a sever viral eye infection. He was given silver nitrate drops to put in his eyes three times a day for approximately four weeks. He said the drops made his eyes sting and burn and they felt like they had gravel in them. He left the Army in 1969 and soon began having trouble with his vision. It was finally diagnoised as open angle glaucoma. He is now 97% blind. Do you think the silver nitrate could be the cause of his blindness?

Regards,Doris McLean

Hello and thank you for your question.


It sounds as though your husband has been through quite an ordeal and has a significant impairment to his life.


There can be certain causes of glaucoma that can present with an open angle, or in other words, an open area leading to the drains inside the eyes. The most common form of open angle glaucoma is Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, which is likely what your husband has, just because it is by far the most common cause of open angle glaucoma. Primary means that there is no identifiable or visible cause for the glaucoma. It is suspected that there is a microscopic defect in the drains inside the eyes that is likely heritable in some respects as there is a strong family history component to it. That being said, not everyone with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) has a family history of it. Trauma to the eyes can induce glaucoma and present with an open angle as can other things, in which case it is a secondary open angle glaucoma.


As far as your husband's case goes, silver nitrate has never been found to be associated or to cause open angle glaucoma. It is actually a drop that for many years was given to newborns to prevent and/or treat conjunctivitis of the newborn. It is relatively well-tolerated from a side-effect and complication profile and is not known to cause POAG.


Unfortunately there are certain persons who, no matter what drops are tried or what lasers are used, that will lose significant vision. Your husband sounds like one of these unfortunate people. These are the people who not only have to be on drops the rest of their lives, but often need incisional surgery to prevent further vision loss.


Does this help address your concerns?


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My opinion is solely informative and does not constitute a formal medical opinion or recommendation. For a formal medical opinion and/or recommendation you must see an eye doctor.

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