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Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Sep 15;47(6):845-52. doi: 10.1086/591202.

Blepharoptosis and external ophthalmoplegia associated with long-term antiretroviral therapy.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390-9103, USA.



Long-term antiretroviral therapy (ART) is associated with lipodystrophy, peripheral neuropathy, lactic acidosis, and myopathy. Blepharoptosis, without prior ART association, is usually caused by age-associated involutional ptosis, but it is also seen in mitochondrial myopathies with external ophthalmoplegia, cardiac conduction disturbances, and neurological impairments.


Patients presented over a 2-year period. Four patients underwent surgical blepharoptosis repair.


Five human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected patients (median age, 50 years; range, 46-53 years) who were receiving ART presented with severe blepharoptosis; 2 of these 5 also presented with external ophthalmoplegia. Findings included decreased palpebral fissure height (median, 6.5 mm; normal height, 9 mm), mildly impaired levator function (median, 10 mm; normal, >13 mm), and markedly decreased marginal reflex distance (median, 0.5 mm; normal, 4 mm). A greater advancement of the levator aponeurosis was required during surgical repair, a finding consistent more with myogenic than with involutional blepharoptosis. All patients had severe lipodystrophy, which preceded blepharoptosis by a median interval of 4.7 years (range, 2.8-5.7 years). Four patients also presented with peripheral neuropathy and metabolic abnormalities before the onset of blepharoptosis, and 3 had cardiac conduction disturbances. Patients received ART for a median of 7.8 years (range, 4.9-11.2 years), thymidine analogue-containing ART for a median of 7.1 years (range, 1.2-7.9 years), and protease inhibitor-containing ART for a median of 7.1 years (range, 4.9-8.9 years).


We report the novel findings of blepharoptosis and external ophthalmoplegia in patients who are receiving ART. Ptosis was preceded by lipodystrophy with long-term use of both thymidine-analogue- and protease inhibitor-containing ART. The findings are most consistent with myogenic ptosis in a generalized mitochondrial myopathy syndrome. Clinicians should also be watchful for other potential myopathic ptosis-associated complications, including proximal weakness, dysphagia, deafness, and cardiac conduction disturbances.

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