Cactus keratopathy: Four cases and a possible pathogenetic mechanism

C. L. Karp, Ingrid Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. To report four cases of Euphorbia cactus sap causing anterior segment toxicity, and to postulate pathogenetic mechanism. Methods. Medical records of four patients who presented with Euphorbia cactus keratoconjunctivitis were reviewed. Clinical findings were compared with previously published reports and a pathogenetic mechanism was postulated. Results. All of our cases experienced a similar clinical course. Initial inoculation with Euphorbia sap caused punctate epitheliopathy; patients noted immediate foreign body sensation and photophobia, but no visual loss. In all cases, patients experienced epithelial slough with delayed healing, requiring approximately nine days to heal the epithelial defect. Patients were treated with topical, antibiotics, pressure patching or a bandage contact lens, and final visual acuities were excellent in all cases. A review of the literature revealed that Euphorbia sap contains a diterpenoid diester which exhibits antineoplastic activity in rodents. Conclusions. Individuals who work with Euphorbia plants should be cautioned to wear eye protection. Patients with Euphorbia sap anterior segment toxicity should be informed that their condition may worsen initially, but that visual outcome is generally excellent. The progressive corneal epithelial sloughing and delayed corneal epithelial healing may be secondary to the antineoplastic effects of Euphorbia sap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 15 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology


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