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Optometry. 2011 Aug;82(8):475-80. doi: 10.1016/j.optm.2011.01.011. Epub 2011 May 12.

Lipemia retinalis preceding acute pancreatitis.

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Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220, USA.



Lipemia retinalis is a visible ophthalmic manifestation of severe hypertriglyceridemia. It may also be the only systemic sign present if triglycerides are acutely elevated in an asymptomatic patient. It may be the harbinger of more serious complications, such as acute pancreatitis and coronary artery disease.


A 39-year-old woman presented for a diabetic eye examination. Dilated fundus examination found diffuse whitening of the retinal arteries and veins. The patient was asymptomatic without other remarkable ocular or systemic signs. The patient subsequently experienced an episode of acute pancreatitis. After a relative normalization of the triglyceride levels, the retina returned to baseline appearance. The patient's ocular health is monitored annually, and her endocrinologist modified the treatment regimen for improved lipid control.


Although lipemia retinalis does not typically result in vision loss, it is a sign of a systemic condition that can have potentially fatal consequences. While the retinal appearance normalizes soon after resolution of the acute lipid imbalance, a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to obtain the desirable systemic outcome. Optometrists play a critical role in prompt referral of these patients for appropriate management of their lipids.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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