Your Questions Answered
By Dr Veerle Van Tricht
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. 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.
Another name for uveitis is iritis.
The signs, symptoms and characteristics of uveitis include:
- Eye redness
- Eye pain
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Dark, floating spots in your field of vision (floaters)
- Decreased vision
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:
How is uveitis diagnosed?
Uveitis diagnosis requires a thorough examination by an ophthalmologist, including a detailed look into your past and present health history. The type of eye examinations used to establish uveitis diagnosis is;
- An eye chart or visual acuity test,
- A funduscopic exam,
- Ocular pressure test,
- A slit lamp exam.
What causes Uveitis?
In around 90% of cases, the precise cause is unknown.
If a cause can be determined, it may be one of the following:
- Eye injury or surgery
- 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. 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
What is the treatment for uveitis?
You will be prescribed steroid eye drops or ointment to treat the inflammation. You will also be given drops to dilate (enlarge) the pupil. This prevents the pupil sticking to the lens, allowing the inflamed iris to rest which reduces pain and discomfort. A dilated pupil can be sensitive to bright light but this can be overcome by wearing sunglasses. A dilated pupil will also cause a degree of blurred vision.
How long will I need to continue the treatment?
The duration and frequency of the treatment will depend on the severity of the inflammation.
If you have any concerns regarding your sight, please don’t hesitate to contact me for advice.
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