Britt McHenry, an ESPN reporter, claims her vision might be permanently damaged from stress after her rant was caught on video and went viral last year.
McHenry, 30 years old, revealed in an interview to Marie Claire, that she’s been battling an eye condition called CSR, Central Serious Retinopathy, since that time. The video surfaced in April 2015 of the reporter mocking an Advanced Towing employee, Gina Michelle, in response to her vehicle being impounded. The video went viral, displaying McHenry’s anger, language, and insults directed at the employee’s dental status, weight and employment. Within hours, she posted an apology describing, “In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things”. ESPN eventually suspended her for a week.
In the reporter’s recent interview, we learned that subsequently she received threats and needed to take on additional security. However, medically it appeared to take its toll as she began having blurry vision in her right eye. Her retinal specialist diagnosed her with CSR, Central Serous Retinopathy. She states she originally took oral medication but now requires injections in her eye. She states, “I could no longer see clearly; everything was a blur. I went to a retinal specialist, who diagnosed me with CSR, a condition in which vision is impaired, often due to trauma or extreme stress. Neither medication nor time helped alleviate the problem. I had no choice but to start a series of injections directly into my eye to try to regain my vision and prevent further damage. The first time I watched the needle approach my eye (yes, you’re awake for this!), I broke down, halting the process until I could regain my composure. I was a wreck, not so much because of the injection, but because of what had brought me to that point.”
So what is CSR?
Central serous retinopathy (CSR) is a buildup of fluid underneath the retina. Serous fluid is the clear, transparent fluid that is seen with many wounds that are not infected. Its solution is made up of water and proteins. Serous fluid can build up in a variety of conditions, and with CSR, it builds up under the retina. Since the purpose of the retina is to collect the light that passes through and convert it into neurological signals the brain can read, the fluid buildup distorts the shape and thus distorts the image.
We do not know what causes CSR, though its believed high stress contributes to it. Elevated cortisol levels which rise during stress may induce the swelling. Moreover corticosteroid medication (used to reduce inflammation in many diseases) has also been implicated in causing CSR. For this reason we cannot treat the condition with steroids. Usually the vision restores in 3-4 months but could take a year. Although Britt McHenry didn’t specify which oral medication she took, some specialists treat CSR with acetazolamide, a diuretic used to treat glaucoma, motion sickness and fluid retention.
If the serous fluid continues to leak behind the retina, laser therapy can be instituted. This unfortunately can run the risk of retinal scarring, worsening vision. Injections of Avastin (bevacizumab), have shown some success, and may be the treatment McHenry was referring to. Avastin is used to treat many types of cancer by reducing blood vessel growth. It can also be used in a variety of ophthalmic conditions in which the retina can be damaged by an overgrowth of blood vessels.