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. It primarily affects people ages 20 to 50, but it may also affect 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 the complications of uveitis.
The signs, symptoms and characteristics of uveitis include:
Symptoms may occur suddenly and get worse quickly, though in some cases, they develop gradually. They may affect one or both eyes.
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. The choroid is sandwiched between the retina and the sclera. The retina is located at the inside wall of the eye and the sclera is the outer white part of the eye wall. The uvea provides blood flow to the deep layers of the retina. The type of uveitis you have depends on which part or parts of the eye are inflamed:
In any of these conditions, the jelly-like material in the center of your eye (vitreous) can become inflamed and infiltrated with inflammatory cells.
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 is a layer of tissue beneath the white of the eye (sclera). It has three parts: the iris, which is the colored part of the eye; the ciliary body, which secretes the transparent liquid (aqueous humor) into the eye; and the choroid layer, which is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between the sclera and the retina.
In about half of all cases, the specific cause of uveitis isn't clear. 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. In addition, a recent study shows a significant association between uveitis and cigarette smoking.
Left untreated, uveitis can cause complications, including:
When you visit an eye specialist (ophthalmologist), he or she will likely conduct a complete eye exam and gather a thorough health history. You may also need these tests:
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. However, your doctor will try to determine whether your uveitis is caused by an infection or another condition.
If uveitis is caused by an underlying condition, treatment will focus on that specific condition. The goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in your eye. Several treatment options are available.
Some of these medications can have serious side effects, such as glaucoma and cataracts. You may need to visit your doctor for follow-up examinations and blood tests every 1 to 3 months.
The speed of your recovery depends in part on the type of uveitis you have and the severity of your symptoms. Uveitis that affects the back of your eye (choroiditis) tends to heal more slowly than uveitis in the front of the eye (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 after successful treatment.
Some alternative medicine treatments have anti-inflammatory properties, but they haven't been well-studied for the treatment of uveitis. Let your doctor know if you plan on using any alternative supplements or treatments, because some may interact with treatments you're receiving or cause adverse reactions.
Your symptoms may prompt you to make an appointment with your family doctor or general practitioner. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the eyes (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: