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Eye (Lond). 1997;11 ( Pt 6):882-8.

Optic atrophy in Wolfram (DIDMOAD) syndrome.

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Department of Clinical Genetics, Institute of Child Health, University of Birmingham, UK.


Wolfram syndrome is the association of diabetes mellitus and optic atrophy, also called DIDMOAD (diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus, optic atrophy and deafness). Incomplete characterisation has caused diagnostic confusion; we therefore undertook a nation-wide cross-sectional case finding study. We identified 45 patients with Wolfram syndrome, median age 29 years. All patients fulfilled the ascertainment criteria (juvenile onset diabetes mellitus and optic atrophy). Optic atrophy presented in 38 patients with reduced visual acuity and colour vision defect (median age 11 years), progressing to visual acuity of 6/60 or less in 35 patients (median time 8 years, range 1-25 years). Visual field examinations recorded before acuity deteriorated showed central scotomas with peripheral constriction. Blind patients had absent pupillary reflexes. Horizontal nystagmus was seen in patients with other signs of cerebellar degeneration. There was no pigmentary retinal dystrophy; only 3 patients had background diabetic retinopathy, despite a median duration of diabetes of 24 years. Electroretinography was normal in 3 patients and showed reduced amplitude in 3 patients; visual evoked responses were abnormal (10/10 patients: reduced amplitude to both flash and pattern stimulation). Magnetic resonance imaging showed generalised brain atrophy with reduced signal from the optic nerves and chiasm. A postmortem brain specimen from one patient revealed atrophy of the optic nerves, chiasm, cerebellum and brainstem. We found no evidence of mitochondrial genome defects or rearrangements. This primary neurogenerative disorder presents with diabetes mellitus and progressive optic atrophy, probably due to pathology in the optic nerve.

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