Uveitis is a general term for an inflammatory response in the eye that can be caused by a broad range of diseases or conditions. It is called uveitis because the area that is inflamed is the uvea, although the condition can also affect other areas in the eye such as the lens, the optic nerve, the retina and the vitreous. Uveitis can cause swelling and tissue damage and lead to reduced vision or in more serious cases, even blindness.
What is the Uvea?
The uvea is a layer in the middle of the eye containing three main elements including: the choroid, which is a network of small blood vessels which provides nutrients to the retina; the iris, which is the colored layer around the pupil; and the ciliary body which produces fluid to shape the lens and provide nutrients to keep it healthy.
Types of Uveitis
Uveitis is classified by four different types, depending on the location of the inflammation within the eye. Anterior uveitis, which is the most common form, is when the iris is inflamed, sometimes in combination with the ciliary body. Intermediate uveitis is inflammation of the ciliary body and posterior uveitis is when the choroid is inflamed. When the entire uvea is inflamed, this is called diffuse or pan-uveitis.
Symptoms of Uveitis
Uveitis generally affects individuals between the ages of 20 and 50 and can present a variety of symptoms depending on the cause. The condition can affect one or both eyes and sometimes the symptoms can come on very rapidly. They include:
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Red eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Seeing floaters in the field of view
If you experiences these symptoms seek medical attention immediately. Uveitis is usually a chronic disease which can lead to vision loss as well as other eye problems such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and cataracts.
Causes of Uveitis
The cause of uveitis is still somewhat of a mystery. It is often found in connection with eye injuries, viral infections, toxins or tumors in the eye or with systemic autoimmune disorders (such as AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis), or inflammatory disorders (such as Crohn’s disease, colitis or Multiple Sclerosis).
Treatment for Uveitis
Uveitis treatment is designed to reduce and eliminate inflammation and pain and to prevent damage to the tissues within the eye, as well as to restore and prevent vision loss. The inflammation is typically treated with anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops, pills, dissolving capsules or injections, depending on where the condition presents in the eye. Additional medications or treatments may be prescribed depending on the cause of the condition. For example, when the cause is an autoimmune disease, immunosuppressant medications may also be used. If there is a viral infection or elevated intraocular pressure, appropriate medications will be given to treat those issues. Often uveitis is a chronic disease so it’s important to see the optometrist any time the symptoms appear.