Uveitis refers to inflammation in the eye that can be caused by various diseases or conditions. The term is derived from the name of the affected area, the uvea, although other parts of the eye such as the lens, optic nerve, retina, and vitreous can also be affected. Uveitis can cause swelling and damage to tissue, potentially leading to decreased vision or even blindness in severe cases.
What is the Uvea?
The uvea is a middle layer of the eye that is composed of three main components, the choroid, iris, and ciliary body. The choroid is a network of small blood vessels that supplies nutrients to the retina. The iris is the colored ring around the pupil. The ciliary body produces fluid that helps to form the lens and maintain its health.
Kinds of Uveitis
Uveitis is classified into four categories based on the location of the inflammation within the eye. The most common type is anterior uveitis, which occurs when the iris is inflamed, sometimes in combination with the ciliary body. Intermediate uveitis is characterized by inflammation of the ciliary body. Posterior uveitis is when the choroid is swollen. If the inflammation affects the entire uvea, it is referred to as pan-uveitis or diffuse uveitis.
Symptoms of Uveitis
Uveitis typically affects individuals between the ages of 20 and 50 and can present a variety of symptoms depending on the underlying cause. It can affect one or both eyes and symptoms can appear suddenly. These symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Red eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Seeing floaters in the field of vision
If you experience these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Uveitis is often a chronic condition that can lead to vision loss as well as other eye problems such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, and cataracts.
Causes of Uveitis
The exact cause of uveitis is not fully understood. It can be associated with eye injuries, viral infections, toxins or tumors in the eye, or with systemic autoimmune conditions (such as AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis), or inflammatory conditions (such as Crohn’s disease, colitis or Multiple Sclerosis).
Treatment for Uveitis
The goal of uveitis treatment is to reduce and eliminate inflammation and pain, prevent damage to the tissues within the eye, and restore and preserve vision. Anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops, pills, dissolving pills, or injections are typically used to treat inflammation, depending on the location of the inflammation within the eye. Additional medications or treatments may be prescribed based on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, if the cause is an autoimmune disease, immunosuppressant medications may also be used. If a viral infection or increased intraocular pressure is present, appropriate medications will be prescribed to address these issues. Uveitis is often a chronic condition, so it is important to see an eye doctor whenever symptoms appear.