Gunther Knauthe  Seite HARH    High Altitude Retinal Haemorrhages: My Case

As I reported in the journal I got a hole in my vision at the second hop while climbing the Khan-Tengri. I experienced it after a long exhausting ascent between 4300 and 5900 m. I first thought that I was blinded by sunlight. But today – after some inquiries and after being submitted to medical treatment – I know now that I suffered from a phenomenon called High Altitude Retinal Haemorrhages (HARH), which is already documented by ophthalmologists and especially alpine medicine.

When I found out that experts believe that HARH occurs possibly in 50 % of all extreme altitude mountaineers I decided to create this page containing some useful information and links.

For medical aid and the more detailed information and consultation I thank my ophthalmologist practice, Dr. C. Schneider in Prenzlauer Berg, mountain medicine specialist Prof. Dr. P. Bärtsch and last but not least the specialists at the University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, in particular Dr. M. Ladewig.

My Experiences

We started early in the morning (4.15, 22. August) at 4300 m (Khan-Tengri Camp1). We get up before at 3.00 and cooked a soup, amounting up to half litre of liquid. I had passed a horrible night though, with increased pulse and easily aching sunburn. For me, the ascend speed was too high and we started to drink less, i.e. no more than a quarter litre. We were panicking because of the avalanche risk in this particular area. So I constantly rose at the power limit until the first major break at 10.30 a.m. at 5500 m. At 12.30 we reached the snow caves at 5.900 m. The afternoon we were only relaxing and I didn't realise any problem with my sight. The first time I was disconcerted about something like dirt on the eyeglasses was during the evening when I took a photo of the sunset.

On the next day we started the descent at 6.00 a.m. and I became aware of the prolongation of the blind marks in my vision. Later, relaxing in the base camp, I could even localise the blind mark at the exactly focussed part of the wider visual field. E.g. when I read a text, only the actually focussed word was blurred. Besides I recognised this only to happen with the right eye.

In the later expedition, I did only less recover from this. Two and a half weeks later (7. September) I visited an ophthalmologist in Berlin. In the following 10 days it bettered rapidly. Obviously rests of blood on the retina had dislodged from the macula. Since then I can hardly notice a derangement in sight anymore. If I wouldn't know the story, I wouldn't realise any mutation.



Photos of retina

linkes Auge 9. September linkes Auge 9. September rechtes Auge 9. September rechtes Auge 9. September
linkes Auge 1. Oktober linkes Auge 1. Oktober rechtes Auge 1. Oktober rechtes Auge 1. Oktober


I got the advice to take Vitamin C for reinforcement of vascular walls/skin (Gefäßwände). Also aspirin or paracetamol can not be too wrong. In any case, an appropriate acclimatisation seems essential.

References in Medical Journals

Internet Ressources

 UIAA Mountain Medicine Centre Information Sheet
 Medizinische Forschung im Hochgebirge (Prof. Dr. Peter Bärtsch)

Update: 14. Dezember 1999
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