5 Things To Know About Roth Spot

by Aug 15, 2023

A Roth spot is a term used for a specific type of hemorrhage in the retina. These hemorrhages are flame-shaped and encircle a white area of the retina, which gives them their unique appearance. The presence of a white center is pathognomonic for a Roth spot. While diabetes and hypertension are common causes of retinal hemorrhages, Roth spots are actually more commonly associated with other systemic health concerns. Among the most concerning are leukemia and bacterial endocarditis. When a Roth spot is identified during an eye examination, a comprehensive health workup is needed to rule out any potentially problematic issues within the cardiovascular system.


Identifying a Roth Spot

Roth spots were first described by Swiss ophthalmologist Moritz Roth and have since become an important diagnostic sign in ophthalmology. They are typically identified during a dilated fundus examination, where an ophthalmologist examines the back of the eye using specialized instruments. The flame-shaped hemorrhage, with its encircling white area, stands out against the surrounding retina.


Causes of Roth Spots: Bacterial Endocarditis

The underlying causes of Roth spots are diverse, but they often reflect serious systemic conditions. One of the most common associations is with bacterial endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart valves. These spots can occur as a result of the embolization of infected material from the heart to the retinal vasculature. Therefore, when a Roth spot is detected, it is crucial to investigate the possibility of bacterial endocarditis and pursue further evaluation and treatment.


Causes of Roth Spots: Leukemia

Leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia, is another condition commonly associated with Roth spots. In this case, the spots result from the infiltration of leukemic cells into the retinal vessels. Given the potential seriousness of leukemia, the identification of Roth spots should prompt a thorough evaluation to determine the presence of any underlying hematologic malignancies.


Causes of Roth Spots: Lupus, Hypertension, Diabetes

Aside from bacterial endocarditis and leukemia, a variety of other conditions may cause Roth spots. These include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), diabetes, hypertension, and anemia. Additionally, Roth spots have been reported in cases of retinal vein occlusion and retinal artery embolism. It is crucial to consider these possibilities and conduct a comprehensive health assessment to detect any underlying diseases.


Health Work Up

When a Roth spot is found, a thorough evaluation is necessary to identify the underlying cause. This typically involves a detailed history and physical examination, including cardiovascular and hematological assessments. Blood tests, echocardiography, and other imaging modalities may be employed to aid in the diagnosis. Collaboration with specialists from other medical fields, such as cardiology or hematology, may also be necessary to formulate an appropriate management plan.

If there is not any known history that points to a specific cause of the Roth spot, a complete workup may be needed to rule out any possible cause. Since many of the causes of a Roth spot can be serious health concerns, it is important to identify the cause of a Roth spot precisely and not delay care.


Our eye doctors at Neal Eye Group in Conshohocken, PA excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call our optometrists at (610) 828-9701 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about a Roth Spot. Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Conshohocken, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Philadelphia.

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