Uveitis is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, which is called the uvea (or uveal tract). The uvea is made up of the iris (coloured part of the eye), the ciliary body (ring of muscle behind the iris) and the choroid (layer of tissue that supports the retina).Inflammation of the uvea usually causes a red eye, sometimes with cloudy vision, and it may be painful.
Alternative Names of Uveitis are: Iritis; Pars planitis; Choroiditis; Chorioretinitis; Anterior uveitis; Posterior uveitis.
Complications of Uveitis Uveitis needs to be closely monitored because complications may develop and lead to loss of vision. Possible complications are outlined below.
Raised eye pressure and glaucoma-Untreated uveitis can cause the iris to stick to the front surface of the lens. This prevents fluid draining through the pupil and increases pressure inside the eye. It can lead to visual loss and glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve). See Useful links for more information on glaucoma. Raised eye pressure can be a side effect of steroid eye drops, so it is important to use the lowest possible dose of these.
Cataracts-Untreated uveitis can cause cataracts (cloudiness in your lens that can lead to visual loss). See Useful links for more information on cataracts.
Macular oedema-Macular oedema is fluid that collects in a part of the retina called the macula. It can result from untreated posterior uveitis and may lead to loss of vision.
Causes of Uveitis
Uveitis can be caused by autoimmune disorders such as- rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, infection or exposure to toxins.
However, in many cases the cause is unknown.
The most common form of uveitis is anterior uveitis, which involves inflammation in the front part of the eye. It is often called iritis because it is usually only effects the iris, the colored part of the eye. The inflammation may be associated with autoimmune diseases, but most cases occur in healthy people. The disorder may affect only one eye. It is most common in young and middle-aged people.
Posterior uveitis affects the back part of the uvea, and involves primarily the choroid, a layer of blood vessels and connective tissue in the middle part of the eye. This type of uveitis is called choroiditis. If the retina is also involved it is called chorioretinitis. You may develop this condition if you have had a body-wide (systemic) infection or if you have an autoimmune disease.
Another form of uveitis is pars planitis. This inflammation affects the narrow area between the colored part of the eye (iris) and the choroid. Pars planitis usually occurs in young men and is generally not associated with any other disease. However, some evidence suggests it may be linked to Crohn's disease and possibly multiple sclerosis.
Uveitis can be associated with any of the following:
Herpes zoster infection
Signs & Symptoms of Uveitis
Uveitis can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms may develop rapidly and can include:
Dark, floating spots in the vision
Redness of the eye
Sensitivity to light
Diagnosis of Uveitis
A complete medical history and eye examination should be performed.
Laboratory tests may be done to rule out infection or autoimmune disorder.
Persons over age 25 with pars planitis should have an MRI of their brain and spine to rule out multiple sclerosis.
Treatments of Uveitis
Iritis is usually mild. Treatment may involve:
Eye drops that dilate the pupil to relieve pain
Steroid eye drops or ointment
Pars planitis is often treated with steroid eye drops. Other medicines, including steroids taken by mouth, may be prescribed to help suppress the immune system.
Choroiditis treatment depends on the underlying cause. Additional specialists in infectious disease or autoimmunity may be needed for such diseases as syphilis, tuberculosis, AIDS, sarcoidosis, or Behcet's syndrome.
If the uveitis is caused by a body-wide infection, treatment may involve antibiotics and powerful anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids.
Prevention of Uveitis
Treatment of an underlying disorder may help to prevent uveitis in persons with a body-wide (systemic) infection or disease.
When to seek Medical Advice
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of uveitis.
Eye pain or reduced vision are urgent symptoms that require prompt medical attention.