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Br J Ophthalmol. 2002 Nov;86(11):1259-61.

Acquired colour vision deficiency in patients receiving digoxin maintenance therapy.

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  • 1Applied Vision Research Centre, Department of Optometry and Visual Science, City University, London EC1V 0HB, UK.



Disturbances of colour vision are a frequently reported sign of digoxin toxicity. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of acquired colour vision deficiency in elderly hospitalised patients receiving maintenance digoxin therapy.


30 patients (mean age 81.3 (SD 6.1) years) receiving digoxin were tested using a battery of colour vision tests (Ishihara, AO Hardy Rand Rittler plates, City tritan test, Lanthony tritan album, and the Farnsworth D15). These were compared to an age matched control group. Serum digoxin concentrations were determined from venous blood samples.


Slight to moderate red-green impairment was found in approximately 20-30% of patients taking digitalis, and approximately 20% showed a severe tritan deficiency. There was no correlation between colour vision impairment and serum digoxin level.


Formal colour vision testing of elderly patients taking digitalis showed a high incidence of colour deficiency, suggesting that impairment of retinal function can occur even at therapeutic drug levels. As a result, colour vision testing in this population would have limited value for the detection of drug toxicity.

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