There are many medical conditions that affect the eye and some of them can be serious. When it comes to medical diseases of the eye, you have to be very careful because permanent damage can occur if not treated. One of these medical conditions of the eye is called uveitis and it can lead to long-term complications if not treated.
Uveitis is an inflammation that occurs in the uvea, which is the vascular layer of the eye between the retina and sclera. The uvea extends to the front of the eye and it consists of the iris, choroid layer and the ciliary body. The most prevalent type of uveitis is an inflammation of the iris which is called iritis or anterior uveitis. There are many other conditions associated with uveitis such as infection, injury and autoimmune conditions. If you can recognize the symptoms of uveitis, then you will have a faster diagnosis and a better prognosis.
There are many symptoms associated with uveitis but most of them can be related to other medical conditions of the eye. Some of the most common symptoms include eye redness, eye pain, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. You might also experience decreased vision, dark floating spots in your vision and the white area inside the lower part of the iris. There are many different areas of the eye where uveitis can occur, which might make the symptoms you experience different depending upon the location. Anterior uveitis will affect the front of your eye and posterior uveitis will affect the back of your eye. You could get intermediary uveitis which will occur around the jelly-like substance in the middle of your eye. Panuveitis is a type of uveitis which occurs when all the layers of the uvea are inflamed. The symptoms can come on suddenly or they can be progress over a period of time. In most cases, the symptoms of uveitis will occur in a gradual manner and can occur in one eye or both eyes. If you experience these symptoms it is important to get to an ophthalmologist immediately so you can figure out the cause and get proper treatment.
Most of the time there are no specific causes related to the development of uveitis. It is possible that the uveitis could be caused by an underlying medical condition that you might not know about. Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease might be a cause of uveitis. You could also get uveitis if you have infections such as cat-scratch fever, herpes, syphilis, tuberculosis or West Nile virus. Eye injuries are most often the main underlying cause of uveitis so it is important to have your vision checked regularly. There are also certain cancers such as lymphoma which might have an effect on the eye and can lead to uveitis. If you think you have uveitis then you should go to the doctor where specific testing is performed to confirm the diagnosis.
An ophthalmologist is the eye specialist you will need to see to determine whether or not you have uveitis. An ophthalmologist will perform a thorough eye examination and also go through your medical history and family history. If the ophthalmologist thinks that the cause of the uveitis is from an underlying medical condition, you might have to go see another doctor. Even if the ophthalmologist does not suspect an underlying medical condition, standard testing will be done to rule out infections or common diseases related to uveitis. Once the ophthalmologist has confirmed the diagnosis of uveitis, you can start talking about treatment options available.
The main goal of treatment for uveitis consists of reducing the overall inflammation in your eye. If there is an underlying medical condition that has caused the uveitis, then the treatment will specifically address that medical condition. Some of the most common treatments for uveitis include antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, antiviral medication, surgery and immunosuppressive medications. Anti-inflammatory medications will be used to treat the uveitis and might be given in the form of eye drops. You might also be given a prescription of corticosteroid medications in pill form to take daily. If there is a diagnosis of posterior uveitis, the treatment might consist of a device that is implanted into your eye. The device will help release the corticosteroid medication gradually into your eye for about two years. Antibiotics or antiviral medications might be used if the uveitis is caused by an infection. The antibiotics or antiviral medications could be used in conjunction with corticosteroid medications to help control the infection. Immunosuppressive medication could become necessary if the uveitis does not respond to the corticosteroid medication or if the uveitis is severe enough to possibly affect your vision. Surgery might be needed to remove the jelly-like material in your eye which is called vitreous. Surgery might be needed to confirm the uveitis and also to help manage the condition. Usually the doctor will collect a small sample of the fluid to help find the exact cause of the condition.
If you have uveitis then you might be concerned about how long it will take your eye to heal from the condition. If you have posterior uveitis then your eye will heal slower than if you have anterior uveitis. A more severe inflammation of the eye might also cause your eye to heal more slowly. The important thing to remember during treatment is that uveitis can reoccur at any time. It is always important to make sure that you contact a doctor as soon as you think you are getting reoccurring symptoms so that the uveitis can be treated promptly. When you have uveitis, you might also have long-term complications from the disease which might become more severe over time.
Leaving uveitis untreated can result in many different long-term complications and put you in severe risk for vision problems. You could get glaucoma of the eye or permanently damage the optic nerve in your eye. There also might be long-term clouding of the lens which is called a cataract or you might have clouding of the cornea. Retinal problems such as retinal detachment are also possible complications. The most damaging long-term complication of uveitis is vision loss, which might become progressively worse over time. It is always important to see your doctor as soon as you experience changes in your vision or eye appearance because it could be a warning sign of uveitis. Conditions that affect the eye are serious because long-term vision loss is a possibility depending on the amount of damage done to the eye. Having uveitis does not mean you will have an outcome of permanent vision loss, but it is a possibility if treatment is not properly administered. All eye conditions should be dealt with promptly to decrease the chances of long-term vision loss or other eye problems.
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Uveitis”, Mayo Clinic