Ocular Immunology

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Inflammatory eye diseases are a group of conditions that cause irritation and tissue damage in different parts of the eye. Because these diseases can lead to partial or complete vision loss, it’s important to receive prompt care from a team of experts. Our ocular immunologists are specially trained ophthalmologists who work with other specialists, including rheumatologists, to accurately diagnose your condition and provide personalized treatments. Our goals are to preserve your vision, improve or eliminate your symptoms, and restore your quality of life. 

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What Are Inflammatory Eye Diseases?

Inflammatory eye diseases can cause pain, swelling, blurry vision, irritation, and redness in one or both eyes and may lead to blindness. They can originate in the eyes, as with uveitis, keratitis, and thyroid eye disease (also known as Graves’ Disease). Or they may be linked to autoimmune or inflammatory diseases that also affect other parts of the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), scleroderma, and sarcoidosis.

Duke Eye Center

Learn about the care offered here so you can prepare for your appointments.

Expert Diagnosis and Treatment of Inflammatory Eye Disease

Accurate Diagnosis Is Essential

Inflammatory eye diseases can be difficult to diagnose and may mimic other, less serious eye problems like conjunctivitis. Because these diseases can compromise your vision, early diagnosis and proper treatment are important and require a diverse team of specialists. Our ocular immunologists -- eye doctors with advanced training in immunological diseases -- work with uveitis, corneal disease, and retinal disease specialists as well as rheumatologists, nephrologists, dermatologists, oncologists, and others. We use the latest technologies to pinpoint the type and cause of your inflammatory eye disease and ensure that you receive the most effective treatment.

Innovative Treatments

Treatments for inflammatory eye diseases vary depending on your individual condition. Duke is one of a handful of centers in the U.S. to offer plasma rich in growth factors (PRGF) eyedrops, which are proven in studies to be safe and effective for treating inflammatory eye diseases that affect the surface of the eye -- called ocular surface diseases. We also offer PROSE, a custom medical treatment that addresses symptoms and improves vision in people with ocular surface diseases such as severe dry eyes. We perform highly technical procedures including limbal stem cell transplants in people with limbal stem cell deficiency, and keratoprosthesis (artificial corneas insertion) to treat complex eye conditions.

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Why Choose Duke

Research to Advance Patient Care

We conduct ongoing research and clinical trials to improve care for people suffering from all types of inflammatory eye disease. For example, we are currently investigating the role of inflammation in degenerative diseases like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration and in systemic diseases that can affect the eyes including cancer, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. We also perform extensive analysis of every patient’s tear fluid and cellular tissue to help identify optimal ways to monitor and treat inflammatory eye diseases.

Care for Children with Inflammatory Eye Disease

Inflammatory eye diseases don’t just affect adults. Our pediatric ophthalmologists work with pediatric rheumatology specialists to diagnose and treat pediatric uveitis, juvenile localized scleroderma, and similar conditions before serious complications and permanent damage occur.

Vision Rehabilitation Services

If vision loss or impairment has affected your ability to perform life’s daily activities, our vision rehabilitation specialists can help. They assess your challenges and goals and help you get back to the activities you love by empowering you to make the most of your functional potential. 

Training the Next Generation

Ocular immunology is a relatively new eye care specialty. We are committed to training the next generation of specialists to diagnose and manage common and rare diseases of the immune system that affect the eyes.

Best Eye Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our ophthalmology program is ranked seventh in the nation and is the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2024–2025.

This page was medically reviewed on 08/12/2022 by