What is uveitis?
Uveitis refers to inflammation of the uveal (pigmented) tract of the eye: the iris, ciliary body and choroid. Together, these form the middle layer of the eye between the retina and the sclera (white of eye). The uvea is the middle layer in the eye sandwiched between the retina (innermost layer) and the sclera (outermost layer). The uvea contains many blood vessels- the veins, arteries, and capillaries that carry blood to and from the eye. Since the uvea nourishes many important parts of the eye (like the retina), inflammation of the uvea can damage your sight. There are several types, defined by the part of the eye involved: iritis (front part of the eye), pars planitis (middle part of the eye), posterior uveitis (back part of the eye), and panuveitis (front and back of the eye). The cause is unknown in half of the cases. In some cases, however, it can be associated with other diseases that affect different parts of your body. Uveitis may be associated with systemic inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, infections, as a result of injury to the eye or due to medications. Studies have shown smoking contributes to the likelihood of developing uveitis.
Symptoms of uveitis
Uveitis may develop suddenly with eye redness and pain or with a painless blurring of your vision. In addition to red eye and eye pain other symptoms include:
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Decreased vision and floaters
Uveitis is a serious eye condition that may permanently damage the eye. It need to be treated as soon as possible. If left untreated, it may lead to: glaucoma, cataract, damage to the retina, and permanent vision loss. Treatment is designed to eliminate inflammation, prevent loss of vision, and keep the eye comfortable.
The first step in diagnosis is generally a comprehensive visit with detailed medical history and eye exam - followed by lab work and radiologic tests to find an underlying cause. The first step in treatment is generally steroid medication, which are administered as eye drops, orally, by injection, or intravenously. While in the short term they halt inflammation but can cause complications in the long term. If steroids do not work, your doctor will follow up with immunosuppressive medications in conjunction with a rheumatologist - these medications include methotrexate, mycophenolate, adalimumab, infliximab, and rituximab to name a few. Your doctor will choose the one they believe will cause the fewest side effects and work well for your particular disease.
The length of treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition. Simple forms may respond to treatment within days. Chronic or long-term forms can take longer and require regular visits to your doctor.
If you are planning a uveitis evaluation visit, your specialist may have you complete this questionnaire.