Bilateral papillopathy as a presenting sign of pheochromocytoma associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease

Veeral Shah, Leonid Zlotcavitch, Angela M. Herro, Sander R. Dubovy, Zohar Yehoshua, Byron L. Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A 7-year-old girl presented with decreased vision in both eyes for 1 month. Examination showed visual acuity of 20/50 and 20/60, no afferent pupillary defect, cecocentral scotomas, and bilateral optic disc edema with extensive peripapillary and macular exudates. Magnetic resonance imaging showed multiple cortical and subcortical white matter lesions. Both the laboratory workup and the systemic examination were unrevealing. However, on follow-up, the patient showed episodic elevations of blood pressure as high as 240/160. Further workup revealed elevated urine catecholamines and a right supra-adrenal mass proven to be a pheochromocytoma by histopathologic analysis. The paroxysmal hypertension resolved, and the visual acuity, visual fields, fundus exam, and neuroimaging improved. The patient was lost to follow-up until age 18 when she developed shortness of breath and was found to have multiple pulmonary metastases identified as pheochromocytoma by biopsy. Genetic testing identified a 3p25-26 (c.482 G>A) VHL gene chromosomal mutation consistent with von Hippel-Lindau disease genotype. Multiple peripheral retinal vascular dilations and small retinal capillary hemangioblastomas were also found. This case highlights the importance of recognizing the lability of blood pressure often seen with pheochromocytomas, which may mask the underlying cause of hypertensive papillopathy and retinopathy, a diagnosis of low clinical suspicion in the pediatric population. The case also underscores the importance of thorough systemic workup, including genotyping to detect conditions where pheochromocytoma may be the presenting sign of the disease, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A and 2B, von Hippel-Lindau disease, von Recklinghausen disease, tuberous sclerosis, and Sturge-Weber syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-628
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Ophthalmology
StatePublished - Mar 26 2014


  • Hypertensive encephalopathy
  • Paroxysmal hypertension
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • VHL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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