DURHAM, N.C. (WRAL) – 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. 

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.

 

Reporter: Allen Mask, M.D.

Copyright 2012 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved.