The uvea is the pigmented middle layer of the eye – between the sclera and the retina – which also includes the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid. Anything that affects the uvea can affect your vision.
Uveitis is an inflammation of the inside of the eye. Causes of uveitis include allergy, infection, chemical exposure and trauma. In some cases, the cause may be unknown. Because it may be associated with more than 100 different diseases, uveitis also serves as an indication of other medical problems.
Types of Uveitis
There are two types of uveitis – the more common non-granulomatous and the more serious granulomatous. Uveitis can also be classified by the specific location of the infection:
- Iritis is an inflammation of the front of the uvea.
- Cyclitis is an inflammation of the middle of the uvea.
- Choroiditis is an inflammation of the rear of the uvea.
Regardless of the location of the uveitis, if left untreated, inflammation inside the eye can lead to blindness. If you suspect you have uveitis, consult an ophthalmologist at once.
A history of autoimmune diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis – is a leading risk factor. The disorder may affect only one eye and is most common in young and middle-aged people.
Heredity can also play a role in developing uveitis. If your family has any history of this disease, regular eye exams are advisable.
Uveitis symptoms vary and can be similar to symptoms of many other eye conditions. Patients may notice that the eye is red, or feels irritated and uncomfortable. Tearing and light sensitivity may occur. There is often blurred vision, and patients may notice floaters.
There are several different treatments for uveitis depending on what parts of the eye are involved, any associated medical conditions and the severity of involvement. Often, anti-inflammatory steroid medications are used. These are potent medicines with possible side effects. Therefore, mild cases of uveitis may be watched without treatment. Uveitis affecting the front of the eye may be treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops. Eye drops, however, cannot treat uveitis in the back of the eye. When the back of the eye is involved, injection of medicine around the eye or systemic medications may be needed.
Uveitis can lead to other problems such as glaucoma, cataract, scar tissue in the eye, and new blood vessel growth. This may require laser or surgical treatment.