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Mutating cells and invasion by pathogens triggers inflammatory responses in the body.  Inflammation consists of a series of events involving cytokines (immune messages), other immune factors, and circulating white blood cells. Uncontrolled levels of inflammation damages healthy tissues and organs.

Excessive inflammation of the eyes may result in sight-threatening condition.

Uveitis
Uveitis describes a group of eye inflammatory diseases.  Symptoms can develop gradually over a few days, or occur suddenly. Symptoms may include: photophobia (sensitivity to light), cloudy or blurred vision, increased floaters, difficulty in vision focus, headaches, “red eye” with pain ranging from a mild ache to intense pain, and loss of peripheral vision (ability to see objects at the side of one’s field of vision). Severe uveitis may lead to permanent damage to vision.

Many cases of eye tissue inflammation are “idiopathic”, i.e., without a known trigger.  Some clinicians suggest that uveitis is caused by:  a) autoimmune responses in which the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and attacks its own eye tissues, b) infections or cancer, c) trauma to the eye, or d) exposure to toxins.  Uveitis is more likely to occur in individuals that have other immune and inflammatory conditions.

Ebola and Uveitis
Two months after an American physician was treated for Ebola, and despite the fact that the virus was no longer detectable in his blood, there were high levels of Ebola virus in his eye. His eye infection was accompanied by an intense inflammatory reaction, uveitis. After much effort, the physician was successfully treated and thankfully  did not lose his sight.

In a study of 85 Ebola Virus Disease survivors in Sierra Leone, 40% reported that they had some sort of “eye problem”. (It is not known whether they also had uveitits.)

Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder in which the light-sensitive retina, the “screen” at the back of the eye that captures images, becomes damaged .  Its photoreceptors,  rods and cones, begin to die off resulting in a  loss of vision.  This condition may end in blindness.

There are conflicting opinions as to whether inflammation plays a major role in this disease.

One study that support the contention that immune responses are involved in retinitis pigmentosa measured the levels of TNF-alpha.  TNF-alpha is a cytokine, that among other functions, helps regulate immunological responses. Depending on when and how much of the cytokine is produced , TNF-alpha may be pro-inflammatory (initiate inflammation), or anti-inflammatory (inhibit inflammation).   In animals with uveitis-like conditions, the levels of TNF-alpha in the eye are  increased between 5-10 fold over control animals.

Also,  in retinitis pigmentosa, immune white blood cells are attracted to the retina, perhaps to clean up debris from dying cells. Some investigators suggest that when these immune cells are overly stimulated, they initiate an autoimmune response, destroying other light-sensing centers in the retina.

Immune Homeostasis, Immune Balance
Immune inflammation is essential to defend the body against cancerous cells and invading microorganisms.  However, the appropriate levels of  “protective” cytokines are needed to balance the “destructive” cytokines produced in the eye so that it can maintain immune homeostasis, immune balance. Unchecked inflammation results in tissue damage and an inability of the body to mount stable and proper immune responses in the face of various challenges.

Dr. Hellen is available at 302.265.3870 for discussion on the role of inflammation and immune homeostasis in one’s health.  There is no charge to speak with her.  She may be contacted at: drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info, or use the contact form.  Thank you.

 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014483502003329
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www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23608634
eyewiki.aao.org/Retinitis_Pigmentosa
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22986109
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21787221
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www.nei.nih.gov/health/uveitis
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During the 1970′s and 80′s, the saga of the “boy in the bubble” was followed with great interest. David Vetter, a young Texas boy had severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a disease caused by life-threatening defects in his immune system. His immune system was unable to protect him from infection, resulting in the necessity of having to live in a germ-free, isolation containment center designed by NASA engineers. He lived in this plastic bubble from the time of this birth until he died at the age of 12 following a failed bone marrow transplant.

The containment center was supposed to keep David separated from any pathogens that might harm him. Unfortunately, it was likely that it was a virus-contaminated bone marrow transplant that resulted in lymphoma, an immune system cancer, which ended David’s life.

Living in a sea of pathogens, a functional immune system is essential for our survival. Inflammation is among the first steps the body takes to heal after injury or disease and it uses immune inflammatory responses to protect us from cancer cells and pathogens. But too much inflammation is as serious a problem as too little inflammation. The body constantly struggles to limit the amount of inflammation that it produces, with uncontrollable amounts of inflammation acting like as if it was an out-of-control forest fire, destroying healthy cells in its path.

The four letters “itis” indicate an inflammatory condition. Typically, the name of the disease depends on the location in which the inflammation occurs. For example, arthritis (inflammation of the joints), colitis (inflammation of the intestinal tract, the colon), dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and uveitis (inflammation of a part of the eye).

Most immune cells do not have specialized names, however some organs have specialized inflammatory immune cells that detect infection and help resolve infection or injury to the body. Kupffer cells are most often associated with the liver. Microglia are associated with the brain and are involved in repairing damaged brain tissue and protecting the brain against disease. Dust cells, also known as alveolar macrophages, carry out similar functions in the lungs.

Inflammation is like real estate: location, location, location. The process of inflammation is substantially the same no matter where in the body the inflammation occurs. The intensity of the inflammatory response is determined by a balance between pro-inflammatory (molecules that cause inflammation) and anti-inflammatory (molecules that dampen inflammation) cytokines, immune messages that are released by immune cells.

The key to healthy immune responses is to be in immune homeostasis, immune balance. We must maintain the balance of enough inflammation to defend ourselves from pathogens, stimulate repair, and healing against the need to limit the amount of inflammation that too often leads to inflammatory diseases.

Contact Dr. Hellen for guidance in utilizing natural means to help the body return to immune homeostasis. She may be reached at:  DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info or or at 302.265.3870.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22254/
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23720329
www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/mind/art3792.html?getPage=2
www.hindawi.com/journals/cherp/2012/490804/

 

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