London, Aug 9: In a rare medical case, a 69-year-old woman in the UK has permanently lost some of the vision in her right eye after she caught chikungunya fever while vacationing in the Caribbean, doctors including one of Indian-origin say.
A new report of the woman's case suggests that vision problems may be an underreported effect of the mosquito-transmitted virus.
"Sight-threatening visual loss can be a late complication of infection with chikungunya," said Dr Abhijit Mohite, who treated the woman and co-authored the report of her case.
It is important that people with vision problems get treatment early, to prevent lasting vision loss, said Mohite, an ophthalmologist at the West Midlands Postgraduate Deanery and Queen's Hospital in the UK.
The woman had visited the Caribbean island of Grenada in July 2014.
During her stay, she was bitten by mosquitoes, and developed a flu-like illness, fever, rash and joint pain.
Although the illness of the woman, who returned home to the UK that August, appeared to go away, she began having trouble seeing with her right eye.
"Her main symptom was that she felt she could not see the lower half of her vision in the right eye," Mohite told 'Live Science'.
"This had come about only a day before she came to see us, and about three weeks after she returned from Grenada," said Mohite.
Two days after her initial visit, a blood test showed the woman had chikungunya. But the doctors still had to rule out other possible causes of her vision loss, Mohite said.
During the six days that it took for the doctors to run all the tests and prescribe the steroids, about half of the nerve cells in woman's optic nerve died, he said.
The steroids decreased the inflammation, but couldn't undo all of the damage.
"The steroids, unfortunately, were not started soon enough in our patient," Mohite said.
The vision loss was permanent, researchers said. This is the first known case of a woman in the UK developing this problem, Mohite added.