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What is interstitial keratitis?

Interstitial keratitis is chronic, nonulcerative inflammation of the middle layers of the cornea (ie, mid-stroma) that is sometimes associated with uveitis.  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. 

What causes interstitial keratitis?

The most common cause of active interstitial stromal keratitis (ISK) is the herpes simplex virus, accounting for over 70% of active cases.  Although syphilis is the leading cause of inactive interstitial stromal keratitis, it is actually responsible for less than 20% of total cases:

  • autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis Interstitial Keratitis
  • herpes simplex
  • herpes zoster 
  • Acanathamoeba infection
  • mumps
  • measles
  • Epstein-Barr
  • leprosy
  • lyme disease
  • tuberculosis
  • syphilis

Symptoms of interstitial keratitis:

  • eye pain
  • excessive tearing (watery eyes)
  • light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • blurry or reduced vision

Treatment of 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.