Purpose: Pediatric uveitis is rare and has been reported to cause increased rates of visual loss compared with adult patients. The reasons for this are unclear. Only one study has been population-based, so the effect of referral bias is not known. We examined the pattern of disease in primary and referral centers to establish the unique characteristics of uveitis in children.
Design: Case control study.
Methods: Retrospective, multicenter, observational study of uveitis starting before the age of 20 years. Two hundred forty-nine patients were recruited from three primary and two referral ophthalmic units. Age-related differences in types of uveitis and systemic disease between hospitals were characterized, as were associations with visual loss.
Results: The incidence of uveitis in district hospitals at less than 16 years of age was 4.9/100,000: the most frequent diagnosis was idiopathic uveitis (78%). In referral cohorts the most frequent diagnosis was juvenile idiopathic arthritis-associated uveitis (67%). Other systemic diseases were rare. The most frequent type of uveitis at 0 to 7 years of age was chronic anterior uveitis, posterior uveitis in 8- to 15-year-olds, and acute anterior uveitis in 16- to 19-year-olds. Visual loss (any eye < 6/12) occurred in 17% and was not associated with age, sex, or hospital cohort. It was most frequent in posterior uveitis (25%). Treatment variables were independent predictors of visual loss: systemic treatment 2.2 (1.1- 4.6), surgical intervention 8.2 (3.8-17.6).
Conclusions: Idiopathic uveitis was three times more common in district hospitals. Visual loss was similar to adult uveitis in this study. The increased frequency of severe chronic anterior uveitis in children aged 0 to 7 years and posterior uveitis in older children aged 8 to 15 years accounts for the rate of visual loss seen in previous studies.