It’s what you’d expect when your favorite cartoon character gets electrocuted, but not a real man: jumping in the air, body convulsions, drooling, and stars in their eyes. But in a case reported by the New England Journal of Medicine, a 42-year-old electrician became starry-eyed after being shocked by 14,000 volts of electricity while on the job. His star-shaped cataracts were treated by Dr. Bobby Korn, an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California San Diego.
"The optic nerve is similar to any wire that conducts electricity," said Korn, according to LiveScience. "In this case, the extreme current and voltage that passed through this important natural wire caused damage to the optic nerve itself."
An electrical current went through the unidentified man’s entire body after coming in contact with his left shoulder. The current struck the optic nerve, causing star-shaped cataracts to manifest in both of his eyes. He was evaluated by Korn about four weeks after the initial accident complaining of impaired vision. That’s when a team led by Korn began developing a plan of action to treat the man’s eyes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a cataract is a clouding of the lens of your eye. People who have cataracts usually view the world as if they’re looking through a severely fogged up window. Though it normally develops slowly, eventually it impacts people’s eyesight. Symptoms of cataracts include clouded vision, sensitivity to light, seeing halos around lights, and double vision in a single eye. Most cataracts develop either as part of the aging process, or as a result of an injury like the one reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. In some cases, though, cataracts can be caused by other eye conditions or underlying medical conditions like diabetes. The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery, which the man with the star-shaped cataracts did undergo.
About three months after his initial meeting with Korn, the man had surgery to remove the cataracts from his eyes and implant a new lens. It has been about ten years since the initial surgery and, although the man’s vision is still impaired, he is able to lead a relatively normal life taking public transportation and attending classes at a community college.
For graphic photos of the man’s star-shaped cataracts, click here.
Source: Korn, B. Kikkawa, D. Ocular Manifestation of Electrical Burn. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2014.