People normally do not have to worry about cataracts until later in life. But, that was not the case with Cappreese Crawley, a 25-year-old student at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work.

Dr. Richard Ruiz evaluates Cappreese Crawley during a clinic visit.
Dr. Richard Ruiz evaluates Cappreese Crawley during a clinic visit.

Crawley had what doctors call secondary cataracts because they are secondary to a different eye disorder. In 2005, she was diagnosed with an inflammatory eye disease called uveitis, which in her case necessitated the use of large doses of systemic steroids to control the inflammation.

After her vision went from bad to worse, Crawley contacted Dr. Richard Ruiz, holder of the John S. Dunn Distinguished University Chair in Ophthalmology.

“The uveitis, the steroids, or both caused her cataracts,” said Ruiz, who practices with The Robert Cizik Eye Clinic and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

The cataracts caused everything to appear hazy to Crawley. “I had difficulty seeing the words in my textbooks and on the computer screen and being able to recognize the faces of my classmates from afar,” said Crawley, an Atlanta native studying to be a social worker.

Ruiz restored her vision to 20/20 by surgically removing the clouded lenses from her eyes and replacing them with implanted lenses in February. “The good news is that her cataracts won’t recur. They’re gone,” Ruiz said. “Her uveitis has settled down, too.”

Uveitis affects the middle layers of the eye and its many causes include inflammatory diseases. Symptoms depend on which area is affected and can include eye pain and light sensitivity.

Uveitis accounts for about 10 percent of cases of legal blindness (less than 20/100) in the United States and affects an estimated 280,000 people in this country every year.

The Ruiz Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science is participating in clinical research into a promising, non-steroidal medication for a particular type of uveitis. The multi-center drug trial is designed to test the effectiveness of the medication in patients.

With her vision back to normal, Crawley is looking forward to receiving a graduate degree in a social work in May at UH.

“I am able to see life clearly now as a veil has been lifted. I look forward to working in the field of medical social work. I hope to eventually go back to school and obtain my doctorate in public health,” she said.

— Robert Cahill, Office of Advancement, Media Relations