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Advances in the treatment of uveitis in patients with spondyloarthritis - is it the time for biologic therapy?

Spondyloarthritis (SpA) is a heterogeneous group of diseases that includes ankylosing spondylitis (AS), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), reactive arthritis (ReA), inflammatory bowel disease-associated spondyloarthritis (IBD-SpA), and undifferentiated spondyloarthritis (unSpA). This group of diseases shares several clinical, imaging, and genetic features; the integration of these diseases in the group of SpA is needed for an early diagnosis and a prompt treatment. Uveitis is the most common extra-articular manifestation of SpA. HLA-B27-associated acute anterior uveitis (AAU) is the most frequent form of uveitis encountered in the SpA group. The general prevalence of HLA-B27-associated AAU in the group of SpA is about 30% and the general prevalence of SpA in patients with HLA-B27-associated AAU is over 50%. There are several differences in the clinical picture and evolution of HLA-B27-associated AAU in patients with SpA and knowing this is very important for the best therapeutic decision. Tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) is a very important mediator not only in the pathogenic mechanisms of SpA, but also in the immune reactions that characterize HLA-B27-associated AAU in SpA. There is much evidence of the role of TNFα in SpA and HLA-B27-associated AAU, multiple studies showing efficacy of anti-TNFα drugs not only on rheumatic manifestations but also on ocular involvement. Conventional therapy of HLA-B27-associated AAU with local or systemic glucocorticoids and immunosuppressive drugs (sulfasalazine, methotrexate, azathioprine, etc.) in order to diminish the ocular inflammation is associated with many side effects, some of them being very severe and even life threatening. Therefore, new treatments, especially biologic therapy with anti-TNFα drugs, open a new opportunity for the treatment of these patients. It is very important to emphasize that antibody anti-TNFα agents (infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab) may be more efficient than soluble receptors of TNFα (etanercept) in decreasing the risk of HLA-B27-associated AAU in patients with SpA. The aim of this review made by a group of ophthalmologists and rheumatologists with recent and fruitful experience regarding the anti-TNF treatment of uveitis in patients with SpA is to make the community of ophthalmologists aware of this biologic therapy and that it is the right time to use it. Abbreviations: AU = anterior uveitis; AAU = acute anterior uveitis; AS = ankylosing spondylitis; ASAS = Assessment of SpondyloArthritis Society; DBP = vitamin D binding protein; ESSG = European Spondyloarthropathy Study Group; HLA-B27 = human leukocyte antigen B27; IBD = inflammatory bowel disease; PsA = psoriatic arthritis; ReA = reactive arthritis; SpA = spondyloarthritis; TLRs = Toll-like receptors; TNFα = tumor necrosis factor α; unSpA = undifferentiated spondyloarthritis.

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