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Cornea. 1997 Jul;16(4):424-9.

Topical anesthetic abuse ring keratitis: report of four cases.

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  • 1National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.



We present the clinicopathologic correlations of two case and two other clinical cases of topical anesthetic abuse keratopathy that were originally diagnosed as Acanthamoeba keratitis because of ring keratitis presentation and characteristic history.


Four patients who were referred to us with suspected Acanthamoeba keratitis are included. Each was initially treated for amoebic keratitis, by using established protocols, and only later was the true origin (topical anesthetic abuse) uncovered. The clinical and surgical histories, pathologic analysis of the corneal specimens, and follow-up of < or = 4 years are included.


Our four cases show another cause for ring infiltration of the cornea. Two cases resulted in corneal transplantation and multiple other medical or surgical treatments in an attempt to restore vision but had poor outcomes of finger-counting vision. Two other cases responded to intensive medical treatments with return of useful vision. Evaluation of the surgical specimens revealed a previously unpublished finding of near total cell death within the corneal stroma.


Topical anesthetic abuse resulting in sight-threatening keratitis may be seen as a masquerade syndrome in many cases. Because of the often poor outcome, we must be aware of this entity, prevent abuse, and be vigilant in our prohibition of topical anesthetic for any therapeutic use.

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