The uvea is the middle of three tissue layers that surround the eye–the outer being the sclera (white part of the eye) and the inner being the retina (which transforms focused light into nerve impulses). The uvea is composed of three parts: the iris, ciliary body, and choroid, all of which border several vital eye structures. When this layer becomes inflamed, the condition known as uveitis has developed.
Uveitis is a more serious problem compared to the common inflammatory conditions that afflict the outer layers of the eye. This is because problems with the uvea can affect the cornea, lens, sclera, retina, and other areas of the eye, which ultimately may threaten your vision. If you begin to notice any of the symptoms explained below, you should seek prompt treatment from an eye care professional.
Causes & Symptoms
There are several potential causes of uveitis, including:
- Virus, such as herpes zoster, herpes simplex, or mumps
- Fungus, like histoplasmosis or a parasite
- Autoimmune diseases
- Injury to the eye, which can also affect the other eye (sympathetic uveitis)
- Diseases in another part of the body, like with arthritis
For about 50% of uveitis cases, lab work can help diagnose the cause, but many times, a definitive cause cannot be determined.
Uveitis can happen suddenly, often with symptoms of pain and redness, or the condition may develop gradually, slowly worsening and causing your vision to become blurry and sensitive to light. In addition to the potential causes of uveitis, the eye problem can be associated with raised intraocular pressure, known as uveitic glaucoma, which can worsen the redness and pain.
Types & Testing
There are different types of uveitis, depending on the area of the eye the inflammation is affecting. These include:
Iritis: The uvea becomes inflamed at the front of the eye in the iris.
Cyclitis: Inflammation occurs in the middle of the eye near the ciliary body.
Choroiditis: The back of the eye is inflamed, affecting the choroid.
When the inside of the eye is inflamed, your sight can be permanently damaged, even leading to blindness if left untreated. For this reason, if you are experiencing symptoms of uveitis, you should see your eye doctor for a comprehensive examination. At this time, your doctor will examine the inside of your eye, which is sometimes enough to make a diagnosis. However, it is possible you may need further work, such as blood tests, skin tests, and x-rays. If these methods do not provide a conclusive answer, you may require surgery to retrieve a sample from the eye for further testing.
Since uveitis can be associated with a systemic disease, you and your doctor will go over your overall health and medical history, which may involve further consultation with other medical specialists.
Treatment for Uveitis
While symptoms like eye redness may seem like a minor concern, this could indicate the onset of a more serious problem like uveitis. If your symptoms do not clear within a short period of time, you should see one of our ophthalmologists or optometrists in Virginia Beach to be examined. If you develop this condition, it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible to minimize any damage to your vision.
Inflammation and pain can typically be resolved with eye drops, such as steroids and pupil dilators. If your eye is inflamed at a deeper level, injections may be necessary. Additionally, your doctor may recommend treatment of any other conditions present, like glaucoma, cataracts, or new blood vessel formation, since these are often associated with uveitis. If you experienced advanced complications from the condition, you may need surgery.
Treatment will also vary according to the type of uveitis you have. Iritis and cyclitis typically occur more suddenly and can be managed with regular use of eye drops. These forms of uveitis typically last six to eight weeks. Choroiditis, on the other hand, usually develops slowly, persists longer, and is more complex to treat. If you receive this diagnosis, it is best to see a retinal specialist.
Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
Our team is composed of licensed ophthalmologists and optometrists, many of whom have specialized training in ocular diseases like uveitis. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please contact us today.