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Posterior scleritis and non-specific orbital inflammation (NSOI), also known as orbital “pseudotumour,” are rarely seen in children.1–3 Paediatric posterior scleritis and NSOI seldom have an underlying systemic association and, to our knowledge, hypothyroidism has not been reported as an association,1,4 although thyroid abnormalities are recognised in adults.
We present a case of a child with bilateral anterior NSOI, posterior scleritis, and anterior uveitis who was also found to be hypothyroid.
A previously fit and well 13 year old girl presented with a 3 week history of bilateral red eyes and painless puffy left upper and lower lids for 1 week. She had had a headache for 10 days which had failed to respond to oral antibiotics. Systemic inquiry revealed a sore throat for 10 days but no other symptoms, in particular no thyroid related symptoms. Her visual acuity was 6/9 right, and 6/18 unaided, improving to 6/12 with pinhole in the left eye. She read all the Ishihara plates with the right eye, but missed three out of 17 plates with the left. No relative afferent pupillary defect (RAPD) was present. She had mild left periorbital swelling which was not erythematous or tender. There was no proptosis. She had full extraocular movements with no diplopia. The right eye had signs of mild anterior uveitis with 1+ of cells while the left eye had 2+ of cells in the anterior chamber. There was no evidence of posterior segment involvement, with normal vitreous and fundi.
She was commenced with 2 hourly dexamethasone eye drops to both eyes and on review 3 days later her vision improved to 6/6 in both eyes. A week later, she returned with pain and increasing periorbital swelling, left eye greater than right. Her visual acuity was reduced to 6/12 (right eye) and 6/60 improving to 6/18 with a pinhole (left eye). A mild left RAPD was present. Significant non-tender, mildly erythematous periorbital swelling was present in the left eye. She had 2 mm left relative proptosis, with generalised restriction of extraocular movements. There was mild bilateral anterior uveitis. The left disc was more swollen than the right and retinal striae were present in both eyes (Fig 1). There was no evidence of vitreous or chorioretinal inflammation. An orbital computed tomograph (CT) scan suggested a diagnosis of bilateral anterior NSOI without enlargement of the extraocular muscles (Fig 2). B-mode ultrasonography showed bilateral diffuse thickening of the posterior coats of the eyes (maximum left thickness of 4.4 mm) and fluid in Tenon’s capsule consistent with scleritis.
Full blood count, urea, and electrolytes, liver function tests, serum angiotensin converting enzyme, serum calcium, autoantibodies (including ANA, ANCA, and rheumatoid factor), C reactive protein (CRP), and chest x ray were normal. She had negative serology for Borrelia, HTLV-1, and HTLV-2. Her erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) was 32 mm in the first hour and a mildly raised Ig M was found. She was biochemically hypothyroid (raised TSH of 25.5 mU/l (0.4–4.0) and T4 of 10.6 pmol/l (9–20)) with positive anti-thyroid M antibodies. Thyrotrophin releasing hormone stimulation test confirmed primary hypothyroidism.
Treatment was commenced with prednisolone 50 mg which was reduced gradually over 3 months with resolution of her symptoms and signs. She had no relapse at 1 year follow up. She was also treated with thyroxine for her hypothyroidism.
The distinction between posterior scleritis and diffuse anterior NSOI is not always clear. As in this case, they commonly have evidence of inflammatory changes of the posterior coats of the eye and periocular tissues.2,4,5
In a series of 29 paediatric NSOI cases, there was an association with peripheral blood eosinophilia, raised ESR, and positive ANA. Normal thyroid function tests (TFTs) were present in all of the nine children tested.4 Other reports of paediatric NSOI do not state whether TFTs were performed.6,7 Similarly, children with posterior scleritis tend not to have any clinical or laboratory evidence of associated systemic disease, but TFTs are not specifically mentioned.1,8 This is in contrast with our patient who was found to be biochemically hypothyroid. There is some evidence of thyroid autoimmunity in adult patients with NSOI, as shown by Atabay et al who found antibodies to eye muscle membrane antigens and thyroid microsomal antigen in patients with NSOI. Each of their cases was clinically and biochemically euthyroid.3
NSOI and scleritis in children may be associated with iritis, unlike the adult form of this disorder.6,9 Bloom et al report that children with NSOI and anterior uveitis tend to have a worse prognosis and increased recurrence.6 Our patient responded well to steroid treatment with no relapse at 1 year.
Scleritis with uveitis, although rare in children, should be recognised as part of the differential diagnosis of acute paediatric orbital inflammation. Hypothyroidism may be an incidental finding in our case, but the role of thyroid autoimmunity in children with NSOI and scleritis needs to be further investigated.
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