Viewer Question:What is vasculitis of the eye?
Doctor's Response:The retina is the portion of the eye that contains the nerves of sensation that perceive light. It is also filled with tiny blood vessels. Vasculitis involving the eye typically is a result of inflammation of the tiny blood vessels of the retina (retinal vasculitis).
Retinal vasculitis ranges in severity from mild to severe. Damage to the blood vessels of the retina can cause partial or complete blindness. Retinal vasculitis by itself is painless, but many of the diseases that cause retinal vasculitis can also cause inflammation elsewhere in the eye which might be associated with pain.
Signs of retinal vasculitis can be seen by the doctor using an ophthalmoscope in the office. Further definition of the blood vessel condition can be determined by a special x-ray dye test (angiogram) of the retina.
Diseases which cause retinal vasculitis include Behcet's disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, systemic necrotizing vasculitis, Wegener's granulomatosus, Takayasu's vasculitis, and Giant Cell arteritis.
Treatment of retinal vasculitis typically involves high doses of cortisone-related medications, such as prednisone. Additionally, some diseases require immune suppression with medications, such as cyclosporine, chlorambucil, and cyclophosphamide.
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Last Editorial Review: 2/3/2003