Eye of Sauron
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Credit: New Line Cinema

This man’s eyes glow like the Eye of Sauron because of a rare condition

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Nov 22, 2019, 12:51 PM EST (Updated)

Sauron’s gargantuan flaming eye has some competition far away from the fires of Mordor. While he can’t spy on everyone through a Palantír or sense who is wearing a certain ring, a 44-year-old man who went in for an exam at a Texas opthalmology clinic was diagnosed with a rare eye disorder that gives him a paranormal gaze.

This must have been the last thing he expected while trying to find a new eye doctor to treat pressure on his eyes after a recent move. His actual diagnosis ended up verging on science fiction.

Glowing irises don't usually happen outside Lord of the Rings and other fictional universes. Powers like this are usually reserved for supernatural beings like Superman, Captain Marvel, Homelander and yes, Sauron. Unfortunately, it’s not an asset in humans. The man, who preferred to stay anonymous, had unusually high eye pressure. That was already a clue that something strange was going on. He suspected his symptoms were related to a family history of glaucoma, but the eye exam revealed iris translumination — a sign of a disease even eye doctors don’t normally see.

“A diagnosis of pigment dispersion syndrome was made…pigment accumulates [and prevents fluid drainage], thereby leading to increases in intraocular pressure and subsequent optic nerve damage known as pigmentary glaucoma,” said opthalmologists Lance Lyons and Alec Amram of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Iris transillumination is the shining of light straight through the iris. It might look awesome, as seen in the tweet above, but this symptom of pigment dispersion syndrome results from pigment flaking off the back of the iris and allowing beams of light to pass straight through the eye. The consequences of having what appear to be awesome glowing eyes don’t end there. Those flakes of pigment were what was causing all that eye pressure, because they were blocking eye drainage. It’s just not worth the meta-human cosplay value.

While iris transillumination might look mesmerizing, it’s still a disorder that can lead to worse things if left untreated. An equally sci-fi laser treatment was needed to unclog the man’s eyes and allow drainage of the fluid that was putting so much pressure on his eyes, which was giving him a higher risk of glaucoma than genetics alone. He was also prescribed eye drops to control the intraocular pressure and keep glaucoma from happening.

“The patient underwent selective laser trabeculoplasty but continued to use pressure-lowering eyedrops to control his intraocular pressure,” Lyons and Amram said.

The final shock? This reluctant superhero was found to have 20/25 vision in both eyes, which beats many of us who wear glasses or press contacts into our eyeballs every day.

(via New England Journal of Medicine)

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