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Potentially blinding eye disease more prevalent than previously thought

NOTE: This release has been updated since its original posting.

SAN FRANCISCO--The incidence and prevalence of uveitis, a potentially blinding eye disease, was found to be much greater than previous estimates. A U.S. population-based study, published in the March issue of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's clinical journal, showed that the incidence of uveitis was nearly three times that of previous estimates in the United States.

Uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye. Based on the findings of the study, it is estimated that more than 280,000 people in the United States have problems with the disease each year. Uveitis is responsible for 30,000 new cases of blindness annually and up to 10 percent of all the cases of blindness, causing a tremendous impact on public health. Uveitis can have many different causes including viral infections, fungal infections, toxoplasmosis, bacterial infections, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and as a result of eye injuries. However, the cause in most cases of uveitis remains unknown.

The cross-sectional, retrospective study is the largest to review the incidence of uveitis in the United States. By examining the medical records, the study authors determined nearly 1,000 patients, from medical centers in six northern California communities, all part of the Kaiser Permanente health care system, had a prior history of uveitis, or developed uveitis at some point during the 12-month study period. This showed a prevalence of nearly 117 cases per 100,000 people. The study also reported that uveitis was more common in women and was more likely to develop with advancing age.

The only other U.S. population-based study done reported 204 cases of uveitis over a 10-year period from a small urban community in Minnesota. The highest incidence of uveitis was in people, ages 25 to 44 years, not the 65 years of age and older, as reported in the northern California
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Contact: Media Relations
media@aao.org
415-561-8534
American Academy of Ophthalmology
1-Mar-2004


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