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Sympathetic ophthalmia


Sympathetic ophthalmia is an acute anterior uveitis, which is an inflammation of the uvea, the part of the eye including the iris, the colored part of the eye that serves as a regulator of the amount of light allowed in, the pupil and also the ciliary body. This inflammation usually occurs shortly after a trauma of one or both eyes. The infection of the other eye is due to a delayed autoimmune reaction, by the aggression of the cells of the body by its own antibodies. Besides trauma, other causes are possible, including eye surgery.


The symptoms of sympathetic ophthalmia are:
  • pain in the affected eye;
  • a decrease in visual acuity;
  • a decrease in the ability to accommodate (by affecting the ciliary muscle's capabilities of convergence of light rays, used to help see close objects);
  • visual distortions;
  • headache;
  • a retinal detachment in the most severe cases.


The diagnosis of sympathetic ophthalmia is based on the examination of the physical signs and the patient history. If an injury occurred in the preceding weeks, the diagnosis of ophtalmia is strongly suspected. In doubtful cases, specialized eye examinations or a blood sample may be needed to rule out other causes for this uveitis.


The treatment of sympathetic ophthalmia consists of using steroids over several weeks, and then gradually decreasing the dose. If this treatment is not enough, immunosuppressants may be prescribed. In the most severe cases, surgery is considered.


In case of severe recent ocular trauma, it is necessary to consult a doctor in case of eye pain or loss of visual acuity.

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