Objectives: Uveitis is the most severe complication of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). The diagnosis may be delayed, as visual symptoms are usually absent, which provides time for insidious complications. The course is chronic and long-term treatment is therefore required.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 75 children with uveitis who accounted for 10.5% of all patients with JIA seen at our pediatric rheumatology outpatient clinic between July 1997 and July 2007.
Results: Uveitis occurred chiefly in patients with pauciarticular JIA. At last follow-up, in 69 patients in whom the files could be satisfactorily reviewed, only the anterior compartment was involved in 59.4% and both the anterior and the posterior compartments in the remainder. Mean age at the uveitis diagnosis was 4.5 years. In 9 (13.0%) patients, uveitis antedated joint manifestations; in 17 (24.7%) both were diagnosed simultaneously; and in 43 (62.3%) arthritis antedated uveitis. In 42 (61%) patients, complications occurred (synechiae, papillary block, cataract, hyalitis, papilledema, glaucoma, macular edema, elevated intraocular pressure, vision loss, and hypotonia). Topical medications were used in all patients for at least 3 months. Severe ocular involvement required systemic glucocorticoid therapy in 29 (42.0%) patients. Among immunomodulating agents, methotrexate and cyclosporine were used in 41 patients and TNFalpha antagonists in 15 patients. Surgery was performed in 21 (30.4%) patients. Uveitis completely resolved in 12 (17.4%) patients, a relapsing course occurred in 14 (20.3%), and became chronic with relapses as soon as the topical treatment was decreased in 23 (33.3%). A severe course was observed in 21 (30.4%) patients of whom 3 became blind and 4 lost vision in one eye.
Conclusion: Uveitis is a severe complication of JIA. Patients with JIA should receive routine ophthalmological follow-up at regular intervals, even is their joint disease is quiescent.