Coats' Disease

  • Medical Author:
    Frank J. Weinstock, MD, FACS

    Dr. Weinstock is a board-certified ophthalmologist. He practices general ophthalmology in Canton, Ohio, with a special interest in contact lenses. He holds faculty positions of Professor of Ophthalmology at the Northeastern Ohio Colleges of Medicine and Affiliate Clinical Professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science at Florida Atlantic University.

  • Medical Editor: Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

What is Coats' disease?

In 1912, Dr. George Coats described one sharply outlined form of exudative retinitis, clinically characterized as follows:

  1. Occurrence in infantile or juvenile male patients
  2. Unilaterality
  3. Absence of systemic diseases
  4. Exudates below the retinal vessels
  5. Retinal hemorrhages
  6. Slow progression to retinal detachment, cataract, atrophy, or glaucoma

Today little has been added. This rare disease is not inherited and may be successfully treated if caught early. However, since is not usually diagnosed early, it usually progresses to cause a marked loss of vision or blindness in one eye.

What are causes and risk factors for Coats' disease?

No causes or risk factors are known.

At this point, although there is no known hereditary component or any other cause, there may be some evidence to suggest that Coats' disease is caused by a somatic mutation of the Norrie disease protein (NDP) gene. There are no known risk factors, although it occurs in males three times as often in females.

What are symptoms and signs of Coats' disease?

There is a gradual decrease of vision which may not be recognized at first due to the young age at which the disease begins. Since it often starts in one eye, the child may compensate well and not notice that the vision is bad in the other eye. It may begin in infants, is most commonly seen between 6-9 years of age, and it rarely is seen in geriatric patients. It is a painless disease.

It usually only occurs in one eye and is more common in males. When only one eye is involved, the individual may carry out almost all visual tasks but may have some limitations if binocular vision is required (relatively rarely). This is usually not noticed by the individual or parents. Depth perception is still present, but it may be decreased significantly.

In England, one study found 0.09 cases in every 100,000 individuals. Therefore, it is quite rare.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/19/2015

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