How are Metal on Metal Hip Implants Related to Vision Problems?
Vision loss is just one of the devastating effects on the body from a metal-on-metal hip implant. If metal ion levels in your blood get too high, you can develop vision loss from cobalt or chromium metal poisoning.
You are at increased risk of heavy metal poisoning and associated vision problems if your implant is metal-on-metal. Your risk of metallosis is especially high if your implant has fractured or requires revision surgery.
Symptoms of Vision Loss Caused by Metal Poisoning
If you have had any of these symptoms in one or both eyes, your hip implant may be the cause:
- Blind spots
- Blurred vision
- General loss of vision
- General discomfort (ex. dry eyes or irritation)
- Deteriorating ability to see or distinguish colors
Sometimes the first symptom of a metal on metal hip problem is a reaction in distant parts of the body, like vision loss.
What is a “Systemic Effect” from Metal on Metal Hip Poisoning?
A systemic effect of metal on metal hips describes health problems that affect the entire body, instead of only the hip joint. Systemic injuries can happen when the microscopic metal ions flake off in the hip area and travel in the bloodstream to the rest of your body. That’s how a metal-on-metal hip can trigger metal poisoning reactions in your eyes.
Making a Legal Case for Metal on Metal Hip Replacements and Vision Loss
As attorneys litigating these cases, we strongly suspect vision loss can be caused by the toxic heavy metals released from these hip implants. There is growing scientific and medical research pointing to this.
However, because the science connecting “systemic effects” to metal-on-metal hips is still fairly new, our ability to make these arguments in court is difficult.
We do find that hip replacement patients with systemic injuries, like vision loss, often have physical damage to their hip joint and surrounding muscle. That physical damage can go undetected for years with no symptoms like pain or swelling in the hip area.
Sometimes the first symptom of a metal-on-metal hip problem is a reaction in distant parts of the body, like vision loss.
Types of Vision Problems Caused by Metal Poisoning From a Hip Implant
If your doctor tells you that you’re experiencing any of the following conditions in one or both eyes, your hip implant may be the cause:
- Optic nerve atrophy: damage to the eye’s main nerve
- Chorio-retinal atrophy: damage to the choroid region of the retina, which supplies blood and oxygen to the retina
- Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) damage: damage to the pigmented layer of the retina
- Cone dysfunction/dystrophy: damage to the cone cells of the retina, which are mostly responsible for helping you see colors
- Scotoma: an abnormal blind spot
- Relative afferent pupillary defect (RAPD): pupils responding differently to light stimulation during a swinging-flashlight test
- Thickening of the macula: deformation in the macula region of the retina
Other Warning Signs That You Might Have Severe Metal Poisoning
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or conditions in addition to vision problems, it is very likely that your implant has raised your metal ion levels to an extremely dangerous level, causing your vision loss:
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Early morning nausea
- Lab tests showing elevated cobalt and chromium levels
- Shortness of breath
- Heart failure (see our “cobalt cardiomyopathy page” for more information)
- Memory loss (see our “dementia” page for more information)
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in your ears
- Other signs of implant failure (popping, squeaking or pain in your hip)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
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How Doctors Diagnose Vision Problems Triggered by Metal on Metal Hip Implants
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, your doctor should conduct multiple eye exams to determine what conditions you have. Your doctor should also test your cobalt and chromium levels because it is possible that your implant has given you severe metal poisoning. If your cobalt and chromium levels are very high, you should ask your doctor if you may need revision hip surgery.
Why Does Vision Loss Happen?
The retina requires a constant supply of oxygen in order to function. Cobalt reduces blood flow in the eye, which essentially stops the retina from receiving enough oxygen and causes it to malfunction. This produces many of the vision loss symptoms.
Is Vision Loss from Metal Poisoning Curable?
Revision surgery on your implant can successfully decrease the metal ions in your blood. When the metal ions in your blood go back down to normal levels, your vision can improve and even return to normal. However, if you wait too long to receive treatment, the metallosis can become too severe to recover your vision.
Symptoms of Metallosis
Metallosis causes a number of serious health complications, which are detailed in the section above. However, some people with metallosis also report experiencing the following symptoms:
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- Early morning nausea
- Physical signs of implant failure (popping, squeaking or pain in the hip)
- Shortness of breath
- Ringing in your ears or hearing loss
- Depression and anxiety
- Blurry vision
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor immediately about your metal-on-metal hip. Ask for a blood test to check your metal ion levels for metallosis. However, it is important to remember that many patients with metallosis exhibit no symptoms, so you should still have your metal ion levels tested regularly to make sure that your implant is not failing.
Our Extensive Legal Experience in Metal on Metal Hip Litigation
➨ Mctlaw is one of only a handful of law firms in the nation that has reviewed the millions of discovery documents involved in this type of litigation. Other law firms contact our attorneys for advice on these types of cases.
➨ Our attorneys have personally questioned under oath dozens of orthopedic hip manufacturer’s employees from all over the world, including surgeons, designers, marketing executives, and corporate CEOs.
➨ In 2008 mctlaw filed the first lawsuit in the United States against a manufacturer of the current generation of defective metal-on-metal hip replacements. Ever since we have been at the forefront of litigation against the makers of these defective medical devices across the United States.
➨ We have developed contacts within the orthopedic community, an understanding of how that community works, and we have extensive medical and technical knowledge about defective orthopedic hip replacements.
➨ Mctlaw is aggressively and actively litigating defective metal on metal hip cases through the U.S. state and federal court systems. We are not waiting for a settlement that may never come because our clients need help now.
Content Reviewed by Michele Stephan – Medical Product Liability Lawyer
Michele Stephan handles defective medical device cases in state and federal courts throughout the country. Ms. Stephan has represented clients in civil litigation for over 20 years. At mctlaw she litigates cases for clients with defective Pinnacle metal on metal hip replacements and failing Biomet metal on metal hip implants. Ms. Stephan has represented clients in civil litigation for over 20 years. Stephan is a member of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee and the Sarasota County Bar Association Programs Committee.
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