Uveitis is a form of eye inflammation that can cause pain, redness and blurry vision. Prompt treatment is important.
Uveitis is a form of eye inflammation. It affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall (uvea).
Uveitis (u-vee-I-tis) warning signs often come on suddenly and get worse quickly. They include eye redness, pain and blurred vision. The condition can affect one or both eyes, and it can affect people of all ages, even children.
Possible causes of uveitis are infection, injury, or an autoimmune or inflammatory disease. Many times a cause can't be identified.
Uveitis can be serious, leading to permanent vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications and preserve your vision.
The signs, symptoms and characteristics of uveitis may include:
Symptoms may occur suddenly and get worse quickly, though in some cases, they develop gradually. They may affect one or both eyes. Occasionally, there are no symptoms, and signs of uveitis are observed on a routine eye exam.
The uvea is the middle layer of tissue in the wall of the eye. It consists of the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid. When you look at your eye in the mirror, you will see the white part of the eye (sclera) and the colored part of the eye (iris).
The iris is located inside the front of the eye. The ciliary body is a structure behind the iris. The choroid is a layer of blood vessels between the retina and the sclera. The retina lines the inside of the back of the eye, like wallpaper. The inside of the back of the eye is filled with a gel-like liquid called vitreous.
The type of uveitis you have depends on which part or parts of the eye are inflamed:
Contact your doctor if you think you have the warning signs of uveitis. He or she may refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist). If you're having significant eye pain and unexpected vision problems, seek immediate medical attention.
The uvea consists of structures of the eye beneath the white of the eye (sclera). It has three parts: (1) the iris, which is the colored part of the eye; (2) the ciliary body, which is the structure in the eye that secretes the transparent liquid within the front of the eye; and (3) the choroid, which is the layer of blood vessels between the sclera and the retina.
In about half of all cases, the specific cause of uveitis isn't clear, and the disorder may be considered an autoimmune disease that only affects the eye or eyes. If a cause can be determined, it may be one of the following:
People with changes in certain genes may be more likely to develop uveitis. Cigarette smoking has been associated with more difficult to control uveitis.
Left untreated, uveitis can cause complications, including:
When you visit an eye specialist (ophthalmologist), they will likely conduct a complete eye exam and gather a thorough health history. The eye examination usually involves the following:
Your doctor also may recommend:
If the ophthalmologist thinks an underlying condition may be the cause of your uveitis, you may be referred to another doctor for a general medical examination and laboratory tests.
Sometimes, it's difficult to find a specific cause for uveitis. Even if a specific cause is not identified, uveitis can still be treated successfully. In the majority of cases, identifying a cause for the uveitis does not lead to a cure. It is still necessary to use some form of treatment to control the swelling.
If uveitis is caused by an underlying condition, treatment may focus on that specific condition. Usually the treatment for uveitis is the same regardless of the cause, as long as the cause is not infectious. The goal of treatment is to reduce the swelling in your eye, as well as in other parts of the body, if present. In some cases, treatment may be necessary for months to years. Several treatment options are available.
Some of these medicines can have serious eye-related side effects, such as glaucoma and cataracts. Medicine by mouth or injection can have side effects in other parts of the body outside the eyes. You may need to visit your doctor frequently for follow-up examinations and blood tests.
A medication-releasing implant. For people with difficult-to-treat posterior uveitis, a device that's implanted in the eye may be an option. This device slowly releases corticosteroid into the eye for months or years depending on the implant used.
If people have not had cataract surgery, this treatment usually causes cataracts to develop. Also, up to 30% of patients will require treatment or monitoring for elevated eye pressure or glaucoma.
The speed of your recovery depends in part on the type of uveitis you have and how bad your symptoms are. Uveitis that affects the back of your eye (posterior uveitis or panuveitis, including retinitis or choroiditis) tends to heal more slowly than uveitis in the front of the eye (anterior uveitis or iritis). Severe inflammation takes longer to clear up than mild inflammation does.
Uveitis can come back. Make an appointment with your doctor if any of your symptoms reappear or worsen.
Your symptoms may prompt you to make an appointment with your primary doctor. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the eyes, called an ophthalmologist.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions can help cover all of the points that are important to you. For uveitis, some basic questions to ask include:
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as: