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Azathioprine as a treatment option for uveitis in patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  1. J C Goebel1,
  2. M Roesel1,
  3. C Heinz1,
  4. H Michels2,
  5. G Ganser3,
  6. A Heiligenhaus4
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, Uveitis Center at St. Franziskus-Hospital, Muenster, Germany
  2. 2German Center of Pediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  3. 3Department of Pediatric Rheumatology, St. Josef Stift, Sendenhorst, Germany
  4. 4Department of Ophthalmology at St. Franziskus-Hospital, Hohenzollernring, Muenster, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Professor Dr Arnd Heiligenhaus, Department of Ophthalmology at St. Franziskus-Hospital, Hohenzollernring 74, D-48145 Muenster, Germany; arnd.heiligenhaus{at}


Aim To investigate the therapeutic value of azathioprine as monotherapy or combined with other immunosuppressive drugs for uveitis in patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Methods A retrospective multicentre study including 41 children with JIA (28 (68.2%) female) with unilateral or bilateral (n=28) chronic anterior uveitis. Azathioprine was used to treat uveitis that was active in patients receiving topical or systemic corticosteroids, methotrexate or other immunosuppressive drugs. The primary end point was assessment of uveitis inactivity. Secondary end points comprised dose sparing of topical steroids and systemic corticosteroids, and immunosuppression.

Results At 1 year, uveitis inactivity was achieved in 13/17 (76.5%) patients by using azathioprine as systemic monotherapy and in 5/9 (56.6%) as combination therapy. During the entire azathioprine treatment period (mean 26 months), inactivity was obtained in 16/26 patients (61.5%) with monotherapy and in 10/15 (66.7%) when combined with other immunosuppressives (p=1.0). With azathioprine, dosages of systemic immunosuppression and steroids could be reduced by ≥50% (n=12) or topical steroids reduced to ≤2 drops/eye/day in six patients. In three patients (7.3%), azathioprine was discontinued because of nausea and stomach pain.

Conclusions Azathioprine may be reconsidered in the stepladder approach for the treatment of JIA-associated uveitis. The addition of azathioprine may also be beneficial for patients not responding properly to methotrexate.

  • Azathioprine
  • immunosuppression
  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • uveitis

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.