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Aust N Z J Ophthalmol. 1996 Aug;24(3):267-73.

The pathogenesis of polychromatic cholesterol crystals in the anterior chamber.

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  • 1Lions Eye Institute, Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Nedlands, Western Australia.



Polychromatic cholesterol crystal of the anterior chamber are an interesting and unusual finding. This paper examines the different pathogenetic mechanisms leading to the formation of these clinically detectable anterior chamber crystals.


Three aetiologically different cases which exhibited polychromatic crystals in the anterior chamber were reviewed. Aqueous samples were examined by wet field microscopy in all cases and additionally by electron microscopy in one of these. One enucleated globe was available for histopathology.


Typical highly refringent cholesterol crystals were identified in the aqueous of all cases. In the first case, the cholesterol crystals developed following the breakdown of vitreous and anterior chamber haemorrhage. In the second case, the cholesterol appeared to derive from the subretinal fluid of a chronic total retinal detachment in the absence of any intraocular haemorrhage. The cholesterol crystals of the final case resulted from phacolysis and were associated with a marked neutrophil response and the presence of proteinaceous crystals consistent with the crystallins.


Anterior chamber cholesterolosis is a secondary phenomenon that always occurs as a result of an ocular disease process. Although the prognosis is dismal for chronically diseased eyes displaying cholesterol crystals in the anterior chamber, the prognosis for eyes with phacolysis may be excellent.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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