Interstitial keratitis
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Interstitial keratitis

Definition

Interstitial keratitis is inflammation of the tissue of the cornea, the clear window on the front of the eye. The condition can lead to vision loss.

Alternative Names

Keratitis interstitial

Causes

Interstitial keratitis is a serious condition in which blood vessels grow into the cornea. Such growth can cause loss of the normal clearness of the cornea. This condition is often caused by infections.

Syphilis is the most common cause of interstitial keratitis, but rare causes include:

In the United States, most cases of syphilis are recognized and treated before this eye condition develops. However, interstitial keratitis remains the most common cause of blindness in the world.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Interstitial keratitis can be easily diagnosed by slit-lamp examination of the eyes. Blood tests and chest x-rays will usually be needed to confirm the infection or disease that is causing the condition.

Treatment

The underlying disease must be treated. Treating the cornea with corticosteroid drops may minimize scarring and help keep the cornea clear.

Once the active inflammation has passed, the cornea is left severely scarred and with abnormal blood vessels. The only way to restore vision at this stage is with a cornea transplant.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Diagnosing and treating interstitial keratitis and its cause early can preserve the clear cornea and good vision.

Possible Complications

A corneal transplantation is not as successful for interstitial keratitis as it is for most other corneal diseases. The presence of blood vessels in the diseased cornea brings white blood cells to the newly transplanted cornea and increases the risk of rejection.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

All patients with interstitial keratitis will be closely followed by an ophthalmologist and a medical specialist with expertise in the underlying disease. Any worsening pain, increasing redness, or decreasing vision should be evaluated immediately. This is particularly crucial for patients with corneal transplants.

Prevention

Prevention consists of avoiding the underlying infection, and if infected, receiving prompt and thorough treatment and follow-up.

References

Ginsberg SP. Corneal problems in systemic disease. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 15th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2009:chap 43.

Bouchard CS. Noninfectious keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.17.


Review Date: 9/3/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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