What is the definition of Interstitial Keratitis?

Interstitial keratitis is inflammation of the tissue of the cornea, the clear window on the front of the eye. The condition can lead to vision loss.

What are the alternative names for Interstitial Keratitis?

Keratitis interstitial; Cornea - keratitis

What are the causes for Interstitial Keratitis?

Interstitial keratitis is a serious condition in which blood vessels grow into the cornea. Such growth can cause loss of the normal clearness of the cornea. This condition is often caused by infections.

Syphilis is the most common cause of interstitial keratitis, but rare causes include:

  • Autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis
  • Leprosy
  • Lyme disease
  • Tuberculosis

In the United States, most cases of syphilis are recognized and treated before this eye condition develops.

However, interstitial keratitis accounts for 10% of avoidable blindness in the least developed countries worldwide. 

What are the symptoms for Interstitial Keratitis?

Symptoms may include:

  • Eye pain
  • Excessive tearing
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

What are the current treatments for Interstitial Keratitis?

The underlying disease must be treated. Treating the cornea with corticosteroid drops may minimize scarring and help keep the cornea clear.

Once the active inflammation has passed, the cornea is left severely scarred and with abnormal blood vessels. The only way to restore vision at this stage is with a cornea transplant.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Interstitial Keratitis?

Diagnosing and treating interstitial keratitis and its cause early can preserve the clear cornea and good vision.

What are the possible complications for Interstitial Keratitis?

A corneal transplant is not as successful for interstitial keratitis as it is for most other corneal diseases. The presence of blood vessels in the diseased cornea brings white blood cells to the newly transplanted cornea and increases the risk of rejection.

When should I contact a medical professional for Interstitial Keratitis?

People with interstitial keratitis need to be followed closely by ophthalmologist and a medical specialist with knowledge of the underlying disease.

A person with the condition should be checked immediately if:

  • Pain gets worse
  • Redness increases
  • Vision decreases

This is particularly crucial for people with corneal transplants.

How do I prevent Interstitial Keratitis?

Prevention consists of avoiding the infection that causes interstitial keratitis. If you do get infected, get prompt and thorough treatment and follow-up.

Eye

REFERENCES

Dobson SR, Sanchez PJ. Syphilis. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 144.

Gauthier A-S, Noureddine S, Delbosc B. Interstitial keratitis diagnosis and treatment. J Fr Ophtalmol. 2019;42(6):e229-e237. PMID: 31103357 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31103357/.

Salmon JF. Cornea. In: Salmon JF, ed. Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 7.

Vasaiwala RA, Bouchard CS. Noninfectious keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.17.

World Health Organization website. Blindness and vision impairment. www.who.int/health-topics/blindness-and-vision-loss#tab=tab_1. Accessed September 23, 2020.

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