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Health Team

Vision screening helps identify child's rare eye condition

Posted February 14, 2012
Updated February 15, 2012

— Most of 9-year-old Sara Katherine Sills' favorite things to do involve her vision. She's a reader and app user – Angry Birds is her favorite.

Five years ago, however, the vision Sills relies on throughout each day was nearly lost to a rare condition that doesn't have noticeable symptoms until blindness occurs. 

Sills' ordeal started after a vision screening, provided by Prevent Blindness North Carolina, at her day care found an abnormality. Her mother took her to Duke Hospital for tests. 

"The first diagnosis came back as iris adhesions," Annette Sills said. 

Sara Katherine Sill Radiothon helps Duke with breakthrough treatments

Following more tests, doctors soon discovered that Sills had uveitis, an inflammation of the lining inside the eye caused by an autoimmune problem. The prognosis was grim.

"We came back that day, they told us that it was 2 to 3 weeks from her losing her sight permanently," Annettee Sills said.

Despite her age at the time, Sara Katherine was nervous about the future of her eyes. 

"I was worried a little bit because I didn't think I'd be able to see anymore," she said. 

Sara Katherine's doctors immediately began trying to get the inflammation to go away to prevent devastating effects from either uveitis or the treatments, which included chemotherapy and steroids.

The treatments led to some liver damage and glaucoma, which required Sills to have two surgeries. Duke eye surgeon Sharon Freedman treated Sara Katherine for her glaucoma and performed her two surgeries in August and December of 2011. 

Since the surgeries, Sara Katherine is doing much better. She goes to Duke once every four weeks or IV infusions of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

"Sara and children like Sara have a very good prognosis for keeping their vision through the course of the disease," Freedman said. 

That only happens when screening catches conditions like uveitis early enough. The state requires vision screening through a child's primary care physician by the time they are 4 years old.

Prevent Blindness North Carolina provides vision screening free to child care centers across the state.

5 Comments

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  • luvtoshag Feb 17, 9:50 a.m.

    Sara Katherine had a screening at 2 & showed no signs of any problems. The next year at 3, a problem was detected, possible iris adhesions. I didn't know where to turn so I went to the internet and it kept coming up Duke & Dr. Laura Enyedi. I called & had an appointment in 2 weeks & did not need a referral, just determination to have my daughter checked. Dr. Enyedi told us Sara Katherine was 2 weeks from losing her sight. She could not promise she would not lose her sight but that she would fight to keep her sight & she has kept her word. Sara Katherine does not have any other health problems & we do not know why her immune system decided to attack both her eyes. Now the Uveitis is only in the left and the Remicade(IV)is helping. Then she developed glaucoma & that is where Dr. Freedman came in & did a terrific job with her surgeries. Sara Katherine has gone from 20/200 to a corrected vision of 20/20 w/glasses. I can not say enough good things about Duke & PBNC.

    Mom

  • Piety Feb 17, 8:46 a.m.

    Duke Eye Care Center-Dr. Enyedi and Dr. Afshari A+ doctors. My daughter had the stray left eye. Nailed her problem right from the get go. All she need was glasses. First went to UNC they told me she was too young for glasses at the time. I was like what. I just saw a child younger than my child with glasses on! Duke is the best!

  • Lady Marksman Feb 16, 4:35 p.m.

    Prevent Blindness found a problem with my sons vision when they screened him at his daycare. He was 4 yrs old. We immediately went to an opthamologist and his vision was corrected through patching and glasses. It could have progressively gotten worse if it hadn't been caught at such an early age!

    Thank you Prevent Blindness NC!!

  • martian Feb 16, 2:09 p.m.

    Well I also had pars planitis since I was 23 and it wasn't "cured" until almost 30 years later (back in 2004) by a retinal specialist in private practice. I had gone to all the usual places, Duke Eye Center, UNC, etc., they didn't know what they were doing. Each doctor had their own (very opinionated) attempt at a cure, usually using some kind of experimental procedure or medication. All these great doctors certainly had no clue and after enough of the institutional doctors who only want to experiment, I happened upon this retinal specialist who had close ties with an optometrist that I went to. Having an optometrist on my side really helped because they seem to be able to translate, interpret, and even sanity-check some of these eye specialists who all think they are Gods. My retinal specialist performed cryopexy and actually fixed the problem with no side-effects and no recurrence. I would never do another eye procedure without an optometrist backing me up.

  • yvette Feb 15, 4:21 p.m.

    My son was diagnosed with pars planitus a form of uveitus when he was 6. Dr. Sharon Freedmon was his doctor. I just wanted to let the family know that it gets better. My son is now 18, and has no flare up since he was 13. The IV infusion were the thing that finally worked on him. Duke has a bunch of great eye doctors.