Thalidomide embryopathy: Revisited 27 years later


Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, East Hospital, S-416 85 Gothenburg, Sweden.


Abstract A prospective ophthalmological study was done in 86 out of a total of 100 Swedes with established thalidomide embryopathy. Forty-six (54%) of all examined individuals had eye findings, which made the eye the second most commonly affected organ in thalidomide embryopathy only surpassed by upper limbs (81%). Forty-three patients (50%) had ocular motility defects, mostly incomitant strabismus. Facial palsy and abnormal lacrimation each occurred in 17 (20%) individuals. One patient had coloboma of the uvea and optic disc and another two had coloboma of the optic disc. Infrequent anomalies were microphthalmos, congenital glaucoma, lipodermoid, and large refractive errors. The observed ocular motility defects, facial palsy and abnormal lacrimation occurred with early induced defects in thalidomide embryopathy, but not with isolated late occurring anomalies. This suggests that thalidomide exerts its effects on the development of these structures early in the teratogenic period, probably mainly during the fourth week of development.