Tuberculosis of the eye in Italy: a forgotten extrapulmonary localization

Infection. 2014 Apr;42(2):335-42. doi: 10.1007/s15010-013-0554-4. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Purpose: Tuberculosis (TB) of the eye is a well-known extrapulmonary localization in high-incidence countries. Data on its relevance in developed countries are scanty. We aim to study the epidemiological and clinical pattern of ocular TB in a tertiary care institution of a western country.

Methods: From 2007 to 2010, consecutive patients with a diagnosis of isolated ocular TB or associated to extraocular TB were recruited. Patients with ophthalmological and clinical features of TB were treated with standard antitubercular therapy (ATT) and steroids in case of concomitant severe ocular inflammation.

Results: Seventeen cases of ocular and extraocular TB and 45 cases of isolated ocular TB were identified. The proportion of patients with ocular and extraocular TB in our local district was 8.1 %, with a proportion of 10.6 % for the isolated cases. In Cohort 1, only one patient was symptomatic for ocular impairment, and uveitis without inflammation was the most common presentation. On the contrary, in Cohort 2, all patients had visual impairment, mainly with bilateral involvement. 77.8 % of the patients showed an inflammatory pattern. ATT was administered for at least 9 months, in four cases with a short course of systemic corticosteroids. Eight cases in Cohort 2 showed recurrence after 1 year from diagnosis.

Conclusions: TB of the eye should not be forgotten, even in geographical areas not considered among endemic countries. Ocular evaluation is advisable in patients with pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB, as early detection may allow ATT to preserve visual acuity.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Tuberculosis, Ocular / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Ocular / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Ocular / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Ocular / prevention & control*
  • Uveitis / drug therapy
  • Uveitis / epidemiology
  • Uveitis / microbiology
  • Uveitis / prevention & control*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Antitubercular Agents