What is uveitis?
Uveitis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye called the uvea. This includes the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid. Uveitis can occur in one or both eyes. Inflammation of the uvea may involve other parts of the eye, or any part of the eye, including the cornea, the sclera, the vitreous body, the retina, and the optic nerve.
What are the types of uveitis?
When our optometrists diagnose and treat uveitis, they may categorize it in different ways. Uveitis is often grouped by the part of the uvea it affects.
Anterior uveitis affects the front of the eye. It is often called iritis, because it mainly affects the area around the eye's iris. Anterior uveitis is the most common type of uveitis in children and adults making up 40-70% of all uveitis. It is usually acute (i.e. comes on suddenly and lasts for less than 6 weeks) and is associated with pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision and redness. Although it can be caused by a number of different kinds of arthritis and inflammatory diseases of the body, in most cases, the cause is unknown.
Intermediate Uveitis is an inflammation of the ciliary body, the front end of the retina, and the vitreous. The vitreous body is a clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eyeball between the lens and the retina. Intermediate uveitis is the least common type of uveitis, making up only 7-15% of cases. It is also known as cyclitis, pars planitis or vitritis.
Symptoms include floaters and blurry vision. People with intermediate uveitis are more likely to have chronic inflammation. Chronic uveitis is defined as uveitis lasting longer than 6 weeks.
In most cases, the cause is unknown. An inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis, MS (multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory disease that affects the brain and spinal cord) or Lyme disease may cause some cases of intermediate uveitis.
Posterior uveitis is an inflammation of the choroid, retina, and optic nerve. The optic nerve is the path that carries images from the retina to the brain. It can be seen in 15-22% of uveitis types. Generally it is chronic (long standing- can last weeks to months to years), recurrent (in which a patient has multiple flare-ups between periods of a quiet eye) and affects both eyes. The underlying cause is often a result of an immune disease. Infections caused by the organism toxoplasmosis are the most ccommon cause of posterior uveitis.
In some cases, inflammation can affect the entire uvea. This inflammation is sometimes called panuveitis. People with panuveitis may be more likely to experience vision loss from the condition. Symptoms include floaters, blurriness or loss of vision. As with other kinds of uveitis, the cause of panuveitis is often unknown.
Is the disease serious?
If untreated, anterior uveitis can lead to other eye problems and cause permanent damage. It usually responds well to treatment, however there may be a tendency for the condition to recur.
How is uveitis diagnosed?
Since the symptoms of anterior uveitis are similar to those of some other eye diseases, our optometrists will carefully examine the inside of the eye, under bright light and high magnification, to determine the presence and severity of the condition. Our optometrists may also perform other diagnostic procedures and arrange for other tests to help pinpoint the cause.
What is the treatment for uveitis?
Prescription eye drops that dilate the pupils in combination with anti-inflammatory drugs are usually needed. Treatment may take several days, or up to a few weeks in some cases. The condition must be monitored closely by our optometrists who will regulate your medication. Vision loss from uveitis can usually be prevented if diagnosed and treated. It is very important for our optometrists to try and determine the underlying cause of the inflammation. Treatment for the underlying cause will help prevent future occurrences of the episodes.