Do You Suspect You Have Uveitis? Here’s What You Need to Know
If you have eye pain or a vision problem, there are dozens of different possible causes. One of those potential causes could include uveitis, or inflammation of the eye’s middle layers. If you have blurred vision, eye pain, sensitivity to light, or floating spots, you may have uveitis.
There are four types of uveitis:
- Anterior uveitis: inflammation of the iris, a structure that controls the amount of light that reaches the eye, and possibly the ciliary body, a tissue that keeps the lens in place and helps the eye focus.
- Diffuse uveitis: inflammation of all uvea areas.
- Intermediate uveitis: inflammation of the ciliary body. One type of intermediate uveitis, pars planitis, refers to the inflammation of a section of the ciliary body called the pars plana.
- Posterior uveitis: inflammation of the chloroid, an eye layer that delivers oxygen to the outer retina layers.
If untreated, uveitis can become dangerous. Read on to learn about risk factors and symptoms of uveitis and discover what an ophthalmologist can do to treat this condition.
For some eye conditions, you can easily pinpoint the cause. This does not apply to uveitis. Many conditions can lead to uveitis, such as:
- Eye injuries or trauma
- Infections such as tuberculosis, West Nile virus, cat-scratch disease, or herpes
- Cancers like lymphoma
- Autoimmune disorders such as sarcoidosis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory disorders such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Smoking (may cause blood vessel inflammation in the eyes)
- Exposure to toxins
Yet some cases of uveitis don’t have an obvious cause. You also have a higher likelihood of developing this conditions if your ages falls between 20 and 50.
It can be difficult to diagnose your eye condition as uveitis without seeing an ophthalmologist, as its symptoms happen commonly with other eye conditions as well. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately:
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Eye redness
- Floating spots in vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Vision loss
Symptoms can help indicate the type of uveitis. For example, anterior uveitis usually causes decreased vision, eye pain, light sensitivity, and redness. Intermediate and posterior uveitis cause blurred vision and floaters.
An ophthalmologist or medical doctor will need to perform various tests to determine whether your eye has uveitis, what type of uveitis it has, and what treatment it needs. These tests may include:
- Visual Acuity Test: an ophthalmologist uses an eye chart to measure whether your vision has decreased.
- Fundoscopic Exam: you will take eye drops to dilate your eye so the ophthalmologist can inspect the back of your eye.
- Eye Pressure Test: the ophthalmologist uses an instrument to examine the pressure in the eye.
- Silt Lamp Exam: the ophthalmologist uses a special instrument to examine the front of the eye.
- Laboratory Tests: may be necessary to determine whether you have an infection or autoimmune disorder.
- Central Nervous System Evaluation: this is needed if you are diagnosed with pars planitis because this condition may be connected to multiple sclerosis.
If untreated, uveitis could cause vision loss and even blindness. Fortunately, you can prevent these results with treatment. Treatment may include:
- Antibiotics: prescribed to patients whose uveitis happened because of infection.
- Anti-inflammatory Medication: prescribed in eye drops, pills, or injections to reduce swelling.
- Immunosuppressive Medication: may be necessary if your condition doesn’t respond to anti-inflammatory medication.
- Dark Glasses: reduce light sensitivity.
- Eye Drops: reduce pain and pressure.
- Surgical Implant: your ophthalmologist may choose to place a surgical implant in the back of your eye; it provides a continuous supply of anti-inflammatory medication.
- Vitrectomy: in this surgery, a professional removes some of the vitreous in your eye. The surgery can diagnose your condition or remove scar tissue.
With treatment, the symptoms of uveitis should go away within a few weeks. Uveitis in the front of the eye may heal faster than uveitis in the back of the eye. In some cases, however, recovery takes longer and the condition could damage your vision despite treatment.
Even if your symptoms go away, you’ll need to pay close attention because uveitis may return.
You can’t ensure you will never contract uveitis, but you can take some steps to reduce your risk. One uveitis cause is eye trauma, so protect your eyes, especially while playing sports or working with toxic chemicals. If you have an infection or disorder that could lead to uveitis, make sure you receive proper treatment. Finally, give up smoking, since smoking can lead to eye inflammation.
Uveitis: You’re Not Alone
One study suspects that over 280,000 people in the United States deal with uveitis each year. If you are diagnosed with uveitis, know that your ophthalmologist has likely treated many other people with this condition.
Before you meet with an ophthalmologist, make sure you’ve prepared to provide a list of your symptoms, your medical history, and any medications or supplements you take.
Don’t delay seeking help for your eye condition, as symptoms can worsen with time. If you suspect you have uveitis, see an ophthalmologist who specializes in this condition.