Original articles

Hutchinson's sign as a marker of ocular involvement in HIV-positive patients with herpes zoster ophthalmicus

M van Dyk, D Meyer


Background. A positive Hutchinson’s sign indicates an increased risk of ocular involvement in herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO). We examined the sensitivity of Hutchinson’s sign as an indicator of ocular involvement in a consecutive series of patients presenting with HZO.
Methods. We conducted a descriptive observational prospective study of patients ≥18 years old presenting with HZO and consenting to pre-and post-test counselling and HIV and CD4 testing. A full ophthalmological examination focused on the extent of ocular involvement, and the presence of Hutchinson’s sign was confirmed by two clinicians.
Results. Thirty-three patients were enrolled; 29 were HIV positive, of whom 18 (62%) had not been diagnosed with HIV prior to enrolment. Of the 29 HIV-positive patients, 21 (72%) were Hutchinson’s sign positive (HSP), all of whom had intra-ocular involvement (95% confidence interval 88 - 100%). Of the 8 HIV-positive, Hutchinson’s sign-negative (HSN) patients, 4 did and 4 did not display intra-ocular involvement. Neither the mean CD4 count nor the average age in the HSP group differed significantly from the HSN group.
Conclusion. We confirmed that a Hutchinson’s sign- and HIV-positive patient with HZO has a very high positive predictive value for intra-ocular involvement. Neither age nor CD4 count had predictive value for ocular involvement. Young adults presenting with HZO should be suspected of having HIV, and HIV-positive patients with HZO but HSN may still have ocular involvement. All patients with HZO should be seen by an ophthalmologist.

Authors' affiliations

M van Dyk, University Stellenbosch

D Meyer, University of Stellenbosch

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HIV; Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus; Hutchinson,s sign

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(3):172-174.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-01-09
Date published: 2010-03-08

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