The term “uveitis” refers to inflammation or swelling in the uvea, the middle layer of eye tissue between the white part (the sclera) and the retina at the back of your eye. This eye inflammation can cause tissue damage and even lead to vision loss if it’s not treated.
There are several types of uveitis. Before we describe them, it’s helpful to list the three main parts of the uvea. They are the:
- Iris – the ring of color that surrounds the pupil and helps control how much light enters the eye
- Choroid – a thin layer of tissue filled with blood vessels that performs many essential functions, including nourishing the outer retina and regulating the eye’s fluid pressure
- Ciliary body – a muscular ring behind the iris that connects the retina to the sclera
Inflammation can occur in any or all of these areas. Posterior uveitis is a rare but serious form of eye inflammation that occurs near the back of the eye and can potentially scar the retina, which can lead to vision loss. Anterior uveitis, the most common type of uveitis, affects the iris. Intermediate uveitis, also called iridocyclitis, affects the area between the iris and the choroid. And a diagnosis of panuveitis means all uveal components of the eye have been affected.
Pain and blurry vision in one or both eyes are common symptoms of uveitis. Some additional uveitis symptoms include:
- Severe redness in the sclera
- Dark, floating spots (floaters) in your field of vision
- Light sensitivity
It’s not always possible to pinpoint the cause of uveitis, which often occurs in otherwise healthy people. However, some of the most common causes include:
- A viral or bacterial infection
- An autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease
- Trauma or injury to the eye
- Toxic chemicals penetrating the eye
- Certain health conditions, such as diabetes or cancer
Untreated uveitis can lead to several potentially severe complications, including:
- Fluid buildup behind the retina – which can cause retinal detachment and blindness
- Glaucoma – a type of visual impairment caused by fluid buildup near the front of the eye
- Cataracts – a condition that clouds the lens or cornea
Uveitis Diagnosis & Treatment Options
Uveitis is often detected through a comprehensive eye exam, during which the optometrist uses eye drops to dilate the pupils. This allows more light into the eye so the doctor can fully inspect the retina and optic nerve for signs of inflammation. When you visit your eye doctor, you may be asked to sit in front of a slit lamp—a piece of equipment with a chin rest—that allows the doctor to use a microscope with a bright light to take a close look at the structures inside your eye. Eye care professionals also use special equipment to check eye pressure.
If you’re experiencing uveitis symptoms or you have signs of eye inflammation, your eye doctor may perform additional testing, such as dye injections to make it easier to spot blood vessel damage in the eye or sampling and analysis of eye fluid.
When uveitis has been diagnosed, treatment usually starts with medication to reduce the inflammation. If swelling is limited to the front of the eye, corticosteroid eye drops may be the only treatment needed. In cases of inflammation beyond the front area, corticosteroid eye injections or tablets taken by mouth may be prescribed.
Sometimes, uveitis is caused by an infection, for which an eye doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication. If the condition results from an autoimmune disorder or doesn’t respond well to corticosteroids, other drugs may be used to treat it. In rare cases, surgery or a medication-releasing eye implant may be called for.
Schedule Your Eye Exam at Florida Medical Clinic
Whether you’re experiencing uveitis symptoms or you need a routine eye exam, you can turn to Florida Medical Clinic for expert eye care from our team of experienced optometrists. Contact us today or use our online form to schedule an appointment at one of our optometry centers in North Tampa or Land O’Lakes.
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