Uveitis is a form of eye inflammation. It affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall (uvea).
Uveitis 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.
Uveitis can be serious, leading to permanent vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent the complications of uveitis.
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:
- Iritis (anterior uveitis) affects the front of your eye and is the most common type.
- Cyclitis (intermediate uveitis) affects the ciliary body.
- Choroiditis and retinitis (posterior uveitis) affect the back of your eye.
- Diffuse uveitis (panuveitis) occurs when all layers of the uvea are inflamed.
These may include:
- Eye redness
- Eye pain
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Dark, floating spots in your field of vision (floaters)
- Decreased vision
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:
- Eye injury or surgery
- idiopathic onset
- An autoimmune disorder, such as sarcoidosis or ankylosing spondylitis
- An inflammatory disorder, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- An infection, such as cat-scratch disease, herpes zoster, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease or West Nile virus
- A cancer that affects the eye, such as lymphoma.
People with changes in certain genes may be more likely to develop uveitis, people with low immune system or compromised immune system. In addition, a recent study shows a significant association between uveitis and cigarette smoking.
Left untreated, uveitis can cause complications, including:
- Optic nerve damage
- Retinal detachment
- Permanent vision loss.
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.
- Drugs that reduce inflammation. Your doctor may first prescribe eyedrops with an anti-inflammatory medication, such as a corticosteroid. If those don’t help, a corticosteroid pill or injection may be the next step.
- Drugs that fight bacteria or viruses. If uveitis is caused by an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antiviral medications or other medicines, with or without corticosteroids, to bring the infection under control.
- Drugs that affect the immune system or destroy cells. You may need immunosuppressive or cytotoxic drugs if your uveitis affects both eyes, doesn’t respond well to corticosteroids or becomes severe enough to threaten your vision.