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To our knowledge, bilateral posterior scleritis in a patient with CLL has not been reported in the literature.
A 70-year-old male was admitted to Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, for severe fatigue and malaise. He had a 9-year history of CLL, for which he was treated with 3 cycles of oral chlorambucil in the past. Approximately 11 days after conclusion of the second cycle of chemotherapy, he complained of 3 to 4 days of ocular irritation, pain with eye movements, and blurry vision bilaterally.
At initial bedside examination, best corrected Snellen acuity (BCVA) was 20/70 bilaterally. Pupils were unremarkable. There was about –2 limitation with abduction but no proptosis in either eye. Intraocular pressure (IOP) measured with Tono-Pen (Reichert Technologies, Depew, N.Y.) was 20 and 24 mm Hg in right and left eyes, respectively. Significant hyperemic chemosis was present bilaterally for 360 degrees and was soft and nontender to palpation (Fig. 1). Multiple peripheral, small, dome-shaped choroidal effusions and diffuse creamy choroidal infiltrates were seen bilaterally on dilated fundus examination.
To rule out local extension of metastatic malignancy, we performed neuroimaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head and orbits, and biopsy of bulbar conjunctiva (clinical history and examination findings were communicated to the pathologist, who reviewed the biopsy specimen). MRI revealed bilateral periorbital soft tissue swelling, marked preseptal edema, choroidal detachments bilaterally, marked hyperintensity of posterior sclera on the left more than the right, consistent with posterior scleritis, and no muscular, intraconal, or optic nerve infiltration (Fig. 2). Informed consent was obtained from the patient for excisional biopsy of the left eye’s bulbar conjunctiva, which showed mild acute inflammatory changes with stromal edema, mild neutrophilic and scattered eosinophilic infiltrates in the epithelium and stroma, but no sign of dysplasia or malignancy (Fig. 3). Complete blood count confirmed relapse of CLL (Table 1), and chemotherapy with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR) was initiated by the patient’s oncologist. A 1-week course of Maxidex (dexamethasone) drops qid OU was prescribed.
Table 1Complete blood count demonstrating elevated lymphocytes and decreased erythrocyte, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, which are consistent with relapse of chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Intravenous fluorescein angiography and fundus photographs unfortunately could not be performed until 1 month later when the patient was stable enough to be transferred to another hospital for the test, which yielded normal findings and no significant pathology (Fig. 4). Three weeks after initiation of chemotherapy, all choroidal effusions had resolved, but mild chemosis and subtle diffuse punctate creamy choroidal lesions remained. BCVA improved to 20/30 OD, 20/25 OS.
Ten weeks after completion of chemotherapy, BCVA improved to 20/25 bilaterally. IOP also improved to 16 mm Hg, with complete resolution of chemosis and choroidal lesions in both eyes.
CLL is the most common leukemia in Western countries; however, ocular manifestations are rare and variable, which makes it difficult for immediate recognition and for formulating a definitive treatment plan. CLL predominantly involves B cells and is characterized by proliferation of lymphocytes that accumulate within blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and extranodal tissue.
Diagnosis of CLL is made via complete blood count and peripheral blood smears. Common complications of CLL include hemolytic anemia, lymphocytosis, autoimmune cytopenia unresponsive to corticosteroids, splenomegaly, fatigue, fevers, night sweats, weight loss, and nausea.
Ocular involvement may be either directly related to leukemic infiltration or indirectly because of compromised immune function, hyperviscosity, thrombocytopenia, anemia, or chemotherapy treatment, but any ocular involvement is rare.
reported a 12% prevalence rate of ocular disease in patients with CLL.
The findings in this patient differ from previous literature of CLL with ocular involvement. First, previously reported ocular manifestations and secondary complications include conjunctival vascular anomalies,
However, bilateral posterior scleritis has yet to be reported in a patient with a history of CLL. Typically, posterior scleritis presents with marked periocular pain, decreased vision, pain with ocular movements, and can potentially involve the posterior segment through macular edema and exudative retinal or choroidal detachments.
Our patient had findings consistent with posterior scleritis, although the severity of pain appeared to be less than expected. Nonetheless, scleritis with little or no pain had been reported; thus, imaging is crucial in helping with diagnosis of this condition.
Second, the literature has yet to describe the complete resolution of bilateral ocular involvement after chemotherapy. The most common course of treatment for ocular involvement of CLL includes a combination of high-dose systemic steroids, external beam irradiation, laser photocoagulation, and (or) chemotherapy. For instance, Currie et al.
described a case of orbital CLL who required local radiation. The biopsy results for our case suggested that the ocular involvement was likely not from malignant infiltration but from reactive inflammatory cause at the time of CLL relapse. However, our patient was unable to undergo high-dose oral prednisone because of a history of severe intolerance. Instead, a short course of topical steroid was prescribed and the patient underwent 1 cycle of FCR chemotherapy with full resolution of the ocular findings.
To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of bilateral posterior scleritis in a patient with CLL that resolved with topical steroid and systemic chemotherapy. Awareness and consideration of these atypical presenting signs will assist in future diagnosis of ocular involvement of CLL and may contribute to further understanding of the underlying pathophysiology.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: the most common leukemia in adults.