J Clin Med. 2023 Oct 22;12(20):6669. doi: 10.3390/jcm12206669.
BACKGROUND: Most Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) cases are bilateral and sequential; however, there are rare unilateral examples, or those in which the delay of onset of vision loss between one and the other eye is longer. In the case of presumed childhood amblyopia in one eye, vision loss in the good eye may be the only symptom of bilateral disease, which was unnoticed in the previously amblyopic eye, or a preexisting episode of LHON in the “amblyopic” eye. The clinical decision in such cases may be difficult and suggestive of other forms of atypical optic neuropathy until confirmed by genetic testing.
CASE SERIES: We present three genetically confirmed (MT-ND1:m.3700G>A, MT-ND6:m14484 T>C, and MT-ND4:m.11778G>A) patients with subacute vision loss in the previously good eye, with the other eye believed to be amblyopic from childhood and their features different from what would be expected in true amblyopia. In all, electrophysiology testing showed a bilaterally reduced amplitude of PERG with low VEP P100 wave amplitudes and prolonged peak time in both eyes, also unusual for amblyopia. During follow-up, the pallor of the optic discs progressed in all eyes. Significant thinning of the peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL; retinal nerve fiber layer around the optic disc) and ganglion cell complex (GCC) in the macular region was present. All three patients had a peculiar history. The first patient was treated for presumed hyperopic amblyopia that did not improve since childhood, experienced visual loss in the good eye at the age of 17, and was negative for the three typical LHON mutations. Extended testing confirmed an atypical pathogenic variant MT-ND1:m.3700G>A in homoplasmy. The second patient with presumed strabismic amblyopia had an unusual presentation of vision loss only at the age of 61, and after the exclusion of other causes, a typical MT-ND4:m.11778G>A pathogenic variant was found in homoplasmy. The third case was peculiar as he had presumed strabismic amblyopia since childhood and had some degree of disc pallor in the amblyopic eye upon presenting with loss of vision in the good eye at the age of 21, and a typical pathogenic variant m14484 T>C, p.Met64Val was subsequently confirmed. However, one year after disease onset, he started to experience significant spontaneous functional improvement in the non-amblyopic up to 1.0 Snellen whilst improvement in the presumed amblyopic eye was modest, suggesting preexisting amblyopia. This interestingly extensive improvement was carefully followed by electrophysiology as well as visual acuity and fields.
CONCLUSIONS: This report shows three different scenarios of presentation of LHON in patients with presumed uniocular amblyopia from childhood. In such cases, the diagnosis may be difficult, and detailed structural and functional evaluation of the optic nerve head is necessary to assess whether an earlier LHON episode was misdiagnosed as amblyopia or whether LHON presented bilaterally on both eyes whilst only being noticed in the previously good eye.