Uveitis: Stealing a Child's Sight

July 25, 2011 9:43:37 AM PDT
Without warning, it can turn your child's world pitch black forever. That's why doctors want you to learn about an eye disease before it blindsides your family

10-year-old Julia Fong would not have been able to see the words on the page of a book because children with her disease can go blind. At 3 years old, she was diagnosed with pediatric uveitis, and her parents had no idea she had it.

"Because you don't see any outward symptoms, you assume everything is OK and that may not be the case," Eileen Fong, Julia's mom, told Ivanhoe.

When Julia was about 2, her parents got hit with the news that she had juvenile idiopathic arthritis. In some cases, the inflammation experienced with arthritis can affect the child's eyes. A year later, they found out their youngest daughter could lose her sight forever.

"Conceivably, she could go blind. That fear is a parent's greatest nightmare," Milton Fong, Julia's dad, told Ivanhoe.

"It is not a common disease, but the consequences can be severe," David Chu, M.D., a uveitis specialist and associate professor of ophthalmology at New Jersey Medical School, told Ivanhoe.

The key is treatment? fast. "We need to make sure the inflammation does not act up and damage the eye beyond repair," Dr. Chu said.

Julia is on intravenous antibody drugs. Other treatments for the disease can include steroids or even chemotherapy. They help control the immune system and keep inflammation down.

The hope is, with continued treatment, Julia will be cured and able to see everything life has to offer.

Statistics show, at any given time, approximately 115,000 children are affected by pediatric uveitis in the United States. Ophthalmologists urge parents to take their children in for annual vision checks to help catch uveitis and other eye problems.

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