Uveitis is a form of eye inflammation. It affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye of the wall called the uvea. This ocular pathology can occur in one or both eyes. The symptoms of uveitis usually appear suddenly and get worse quickly. It’s most common in people between the ages of 20 and 50 but can also occur in children.
Uveitis can be serious and lead to permanent vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications from uveitis.
At the same time, people with alterations in certain genes may be more likely to get uveitis. In addition, a recent study found a significant relationship between uveitis and smoking.
Types of uveitis
The uvea is the middle layer of tissue in the wall of the eye. It consists of the following:
- Ciliary body
- Choroid – located between the retina, in the innermost layer of the wall of the eye – and the sclera – the outermost white part of the wall of the eye.
The uvea provides blood flow to the deep layers of the retina. And the type of uveitis you have will depend on which parts of the eye are inflamed:
- Iritis: Affects the front part of the eye and is the most frequent type.
- Cyclitis: Affects the ciliary body.
- Choroiditis and retinitis: Affect the back of the eye.
- Diffuse uveitis: Involves the inflammation of all of the layers of the uvea.
In any of these conditions, inflammation can occur in the gelatinous material located in the center of the eye (vitreous humor). What’s more, it can become invaded by inflammatory cells.
Additionally, there’s another classification of uveitis according to the area of the uvea that it affects. In severe cases, it involves all layers.
Anterior – Uvea inflammation occurs near the front of the eye. It starts suddenly and symptoms can last up to 8 weeks. Some variants of anterior uveitis are constant, while others disappear and return.
Intermediate – The swelling of the uvea takes place near the central part of the eye. Therefore, symptoms can last from a few weeks to many years. At the same time, this variant can be cyclical, sometimes improving and sometimes worsening.
Posterior – The inflammation of the uvea is near the back of the eye. In this case, symptoms can occur gradually and can last for many years.
Symptoms and complications
Signs, symptoms and characteristics of uveitis include some such as:
- Redness of the eyes
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- Dark spots floating in the field of vision (floaters)
- Reduced vision
Symptoms may appear suddenly or worsen rapidly, although in some cases they occur gradually.
In addition to these symptoms, if left untreated, uveitis can cause certain complications, for example
- Cataract injury
- Injury to the optic nerve
- Detachment of the retina
- Permanent loss of vision
In about half of all cases, the specific cause of the uveitis is not clear. In cases where the cause is identifiable, it may involve the following:
- Autoimmune disorder, such as sarcoidosis or ankylosing spondylitis.
- Injury or eye surgery.
- Inflammatory disorder, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- An infection, such as cat scratch disease, shingles, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease, or West Nile virus.
- Cancer that affects the eyes, such as lymphoma.
Diagnosis and treatment of uveitis
Since uveitis is often associated with other diseases or conditions, some diagnostic testing may be necessary. These may include a physical exam, blood or skin tests, eye fluid analysis and imaging tests.
As for the treatment, it must take place immediately to avoid long-term problems. Ophthalmologists often treat uveitis with medication in the form of eye drops that reduce inflammation. They may also use eye drops that dilate the pupil to reduce pain and swelling.