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New Therapy For Uveitis

If not properly treated chronic inflammation causes scarring and leads to irreversible vision loss. A preliminary clinical trial conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that an investigational treatment for uveitis seems to have many fewer side effects than existing therapies leading to improved quality of life for patients with this potentially blinding disease. Accounting for an estimated 10-15 per cent of blindness in North America uveitis is a condition in which tissues in the eye become inflamed. If not properly treated chronic inflammation causes scarring and leads to irreversible vision loss.

Currently people with severe uveitis must take steroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system to control the inflammation. Unfortunately these powerful drugs can have many serious side effects such as kidney dysfunction glaucoma osteoporosis increased blood sugar elevated blood pressure and weight gain. Although the causes of uveitis vary the majority of cases are thought to be autoimmune (where the body’s immune system attacks parts of the body). Because their immune systems are compromised patients must also limit contact with other people to avoid contagious illnesses. Obviously current therapies for uveitis severely diminish a patient s quality of life.

The clinical trial results found that once-monthly intravenous infusions with an immune therapy drug controlled uveitis and was well-tolerated in seven of 10 patients over a four-year period. Administering the immune therapy drug intravenously also worked. This might allow patients to inject the drug to themselves at home making the treatment even more convenient.

NIH researchers are pioneering much of the effort to better understand uveitis in order to develop safer and more effective therapies.

With files from the National Institutes of Health