American Academy of Ophthalmology Web Site:
Original URL:

August 2012

What Is This Month's Mystery Condition?
Written by Paula E. Pecen, MD, and Nieraj Jain, MD, Duke University Department of Ophthalmology. Edited by Michael P. Kelly, FOPS.

Photo by Tiffanie Keaton, Duke Eye Center, Durham, N.C.
Academy members: login to read or make comments on this article.
(PDF 131 KB)

August 2012 Blink

Roth Spots

A 22-year-old woman presented with the complaint of a small, central “blurry spot” in the vision of her right eye that she had noticed for the past month. This was associated with fatigue, shortness of breath, and headaches. She denied having fevers or chills. On examination, visual acuity was 20/20 in both eyes. Funduscopic exam was notable for clear vitreous media, white-centered intraretinal hemorrhages (Roth spots) in the posterior pole, and mild vascular dilatation in both eyes.

A blood count revealed anemia (hematocrit was 17 percent) and leukocytosis (white blood cell count was 35 x 109 cells/L). A peripheral blood smear yielded immature white blood cells. A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia. She underwent induction chemotherapy with daunorubicin and cytarabine; her visual symptoms improved within one week. 

Roth spots are classically associated with subacute bacterial endocarditis but can be seen in other conditions, including leukemia, pernicious anemia, hypertensive retinopathy, and diabetes. The white center of Roth spots may consist of neoplastic cells, white blood cells, platelets, fibrin, or focal ischemia. White-centered retinal hemorrhages are more common in acute than chronic leukemias and tend to be located in the posterior pole. The Roth spots in this patient likely contained neoplastic white blood cells. This image depicts early clearing of the Roth spots one week into chemotherapy. 


BLINK SUBMISSIONS: Send us your ophthalmic image and its explanation in 150-250 words. E-mail to, fax to 415-561-8575 or mail to EyeNet Magazine, 655 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. Please note that EyeNet reserves the right to edit Blink submissions.


Academy members: login to read or make comments on this article.