Uveitis: Eye Inflammation

Uveitis is the swelling of the middle layer of the eye known as the uvea. This layer consists of the iris, choroid, and ciliary body of the eye.

Uveitis can be caused by various factors such as eye injury, toxic chemical exposure, or inflammatory diseases. Uveitis may be classified in different types according to the location of the inflammation. The different types of uveitis include:

Anterior uveitis is the inflammation of the iris and ciliary body.
Posterior uveitis is the inflammation of the choroid.
Diffuse uveitis or panuveitis is the inflammation of the whole uvea.
Intermediate uveitis is the inflammation of solely the ciliary body.

Several cases of uveitis are chronic and can produce many complications such as cataracts, elevated eye pressure (IOP), retinal detachment, or glaucoma which may lead to permanent vision loss. Uveitis usually affects people in their 20s to 60s which causes 10% of legal blindness in the United States alone.

Symptoms of Uveitis

Anterior uveitis may cause:

Photophobia or light sensitivity
Redness or pain in the eye
Diminished visual acuity

Posterior and immediate types of uveitis are usually painless. The only noticeable symptoms these types may produce are blurred vision and floaters typically in both eyes.


Causes of Uveitis

Different types of uveitis may be caused by systemic disorders or infections including:

Kawasaki’s disease
psoriatic arthritis
Lyme disease
multiple sclerosis
inflammatory bowel disease
and many other systemic disorders

Research has also shown that smoking is considered as a risk factor for uveitis. Cigarette smoke contains composites that incite blood vessel inflammation which may contribute to immune system disruption and uveitis.


Uveitis Treatment

Corticosteroid eye drops, immunosuppressant therapy, oral steroid medications, and corticosteroid surgical implants are some of the best treatments for uveitis.

Corticosteroid implants are used to treat posterior uveitis by surgically implanting a tiny drug (Retisert, Bausch+Lomb) in the back of the eye. This delivers sustained amounts of anti-inflammatory medication to treat uveitis.

Your doctor may also prescribe pupil-dilating eye drops in addition to steroids to reduce pain of anterior uveitis. For people who develop high eye pressure because of uveitis, you may also be required to use eye drops to lower your intraocular pressure.

Any known systemic condition contributing to uveitis must also be treated. If you experience sensitivity to light or photophobia, photochromic lenses may aid in extra protection of the eyes from harsh lit environments. These glasses darken automatically outdoors and in brightly lit places to reduce photophobia-related discomfort.

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