The giant fornix syndrome: an unrecognized cause of chronic, relapsing, grossly purulent conjunctivitis.

Lacrimal Service, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
Ophthalmology (Impact Factor: 5.56). 09/2004; 111(8):1539-45. DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2004.01.037
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To describe a group of elderly patients presenting with chronic, relapsing, copiously purulent conjunctivitis, in which the condition was often perpetuated by the sequestration of a large number of bacteria on a protein coagulum lodged in the recesses of a large upper conjunctival fornix.
Retrospective review of a noncomparative case series, drawn from patients attending the lacrimal clinic at Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Characterization of this unrecognized syndrome and its response to treatment.
Twelve patients (10 female) presented between the ages of 77 and 93 years (mean, 85; median, 86) with a history of chronic relapsing bacterial conjunctivitis affecting, with 2 exceptions, just one eye. All had experienced multiple episodes of markedly purulent conjunctivitis and chronic ocular discharge for between 8 and 48 months (mean, 23.5; median, 24) before referral, and the patients had received multiple courses of treatment. Three had successful external dacryocystorhinostomy (for nasolacrimal duct occlusion) before the final diagnosis of giant fornix syndrome was made, 9 had developed corneal vascularization and scarring before referral, and 5 had suffered prior spontaneous corneal perforation or thinning. All patients had deep upper conjunctival fornices in association with the changes of age-related dehiscence of the levator muscle aponeurosis. Copious amounts of thick, purulent debris and a yellow coagulum were lodged in the depths of the upper fornix-this debris universally culturing Staphylococcus aureus. The condition settled rapidly on appropriate systemic antibiotics (ciprofloxacin or ofloxacin), intensive topical antibiotics, and high-dose, high-potency steroids; some patients required repeated treatment or needed to continue the use of a single drop of a combined steroid-antibiotic to prevent relapse.
The capacious upper fornix of the elderly may harbor a coagulum colonized by S. aureus, leading to chronic conjunctivitis that may lead to severe sight impairment due to toxic keratopathy and secondary corneal vascularization.

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