What is Uveitis?
‘Uveitis’ is usually used as an umbrella term referring to range of eye conditions inflicting the middle layer of the eye, ‘uvea’, and tissues surrounding it with inflammation, which can be painful as well. It can not only turn the eye red, but can also cloud the vision.
According to NIH,
Uveitis turns out to be the 5th leading cause of vision loss in the U.S., mainly affecting people between 20 years to 60 years of age.
Uveitis can affect one of your eyes or both. Caused by various reasons ranging from viral or bacterial infection to some underlying diseases, it can result in swelling of your eye tissues, damaging them overtime.
In fact, uveitis can cause vision loss as well if it doesn’t get appropriate treatment. A person can suffer from either acute uveitis (lasting for a shorter period of time) or chronic uveitis (lasting for a longer period of time), and there’s a possibility of multiple recurrences with severest forms of the disease.
What Causes Uveitis?
Uveitis causes vary quite significantly. From a simple eye injury to different types of infections, such as viral, fungal, bacterial or even parasitic infections to systematic inflammatory diseases capable of affecting the whole body, the culprit can be any of the above.
In about 50% of all uveitis cases, researchers are unable to pinpoint a specific cause.
Any of the following factors can cause uveitis:
An injury to the eyes, sometimes even resulting from a surgery
An inflammatory disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
Psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis or other autoimmune diseases including juvenile arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis (TB), herpes simplex and so forth
Toxoplasmosis, West Nile virus or Lyme disease, and other infections including syphilis, herpes zoster and cat-scratch disease
An eye-affecting cancer, such as lymphoma
Body’s immune response normally taking effect against an infection in the eye may also lead to uveitis. For instance, skin tattooing, which many researchers believe, might lead to such an outcome in some people
Are There Different Types of Uveitis?
This eye condition exists in several different types, depending mostly on the part of the eye bearing the inflammation.
Primarily targeting the ‘iris’ region of the eye, ‘Iritis’ happens to be the most commonly existing form of uveitis. It is the type of the disease associated with autoimmune disorders (the ones where your own body attacks itself) like arthritis. This type of uveitis is known to develop unexpectedly, lasting for as long as eight weeks despite being treated.
When the middle part of your eye catches inflammation, also possibly affecting the muscle that helps lens focus, it’s affected by cyclitis. It also has the tendency to develop suddenly, with inflammation lasting for several months
This is when back of your eye is affected by the uveitis. Treating ‘Retinitis’ becomes a bit challenging, because it can develop quite quickly. Viruses like herpes zoster or herpes simplex, bacterial infections like syphilis and parasitic infections like toxoplasmosis or certain autoimmune diseases can also lead to this type of uveitis.
Inflammation in the layer beneath the retina is referred as ‘Choroiditis’, which is likely to be caused by some autoimmune diseases as well as infections like tuberculosis.
When the inflammation extends to the whole interior of the eyes, the condition is referred as ‘Panuveitis’.
When the inflammation covers the white part of your eye, the ‘sclera’, it’s called ‘Scleritis’.
There’s also another common way of segregating between different forms of uveitis, i.e.:
Affecting mostly young and middle-aged population, this is the most common form of uveitis, targeting the front of the eye. Quite often, it only affects healthy people in just one eye, but sometimes it is associated with rheumatologic, gastrointestinal, lung, skin and various other infectious diseases.
Young adults are most likely to suffer from this form of uveitis, with infection appearing in their ‘vitreous’ – the region comprising of the clear gel-like substance between the eyeball and retina of the lens. It is also linked with various disorders like sarcoidosis and multiple sclerosis.
This is the least common of different forms of the disease, affecting the back of the eye in most cases, as the name suggests. The inflammation is most likely to affect both the retina and the choroid of your eye and can be caused by various infectious and noninfectious diseases.
What Are Some of the Most Common Uveitis Symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of uveitis vary depending upon the kind of inflammation affecting a person. Generally, you should immediately consult an ophthalmologist if you are suffering from severe eye pain, light sensitivity or observable change in your vision. That’s why experts advise taking your eye exam on a regular basis.
Some common uveitis symptoms may include:
Cloudy or blurred vision and other generic vision problems
Floaters – appearance of transparent bubbles (shaped like tiny rods, often connected as a chain) floating around in your field of vision
Redness and pain in the eye
Pupil appearing smaller than usual
Increased light sensitivity
Changing iris color
Uveitis Treatment Options
Uveitis treatment is aimed at countering the inflammation, preventing the resulting damage with the potential of vision loss, and addressing the cause of the disease if known. This treatment can continue as long as the inflammation is cured, and in most cases, it’s not possible to know precisely how long will it take.
Some possible uveitis treatment options include:
Antibiotic or Antiviral Medication:
Ophthalmologists resort to antibiotics or antiviral medication as the first option if the infection is confirmed and deemed manageable by such medication.
Corticosteroid medications can also be administered, mostly in the form of prednisolone acetate (as eye drops), tablets or in severe cases, as an injection into the eye. However, before administering corticosteroids, it is imperative to rule out corneal ulcers by means of a florescence dye test.
This type of medication is used In case of extremely severe uveitis symptoms, especially with the potential to inflict vision loss. Or, when the patient doesn’t respond significantly to the other therapies, immunosuppressants can also be used.
Mydriatic Eye Drops:
This type of eye drops, for example, atropine or cyclopentolate, are used for dilating pupil to help the eye heal of the infection. These are also helpful in managing pain and stopping the pupil from sticking to the lens.
Complications Associated with Uveitis Treatment
Appropriate and timely treatment under the supervision of an experienced ophthalmologist significantly reduces the chances of complications. However, the following ones may occur in worst case scenario:
- Scar Tissue
A healthy set of eyes and the ability to see things clearly in their true colors is something to cherish for, as anyone suffering from any of the sight threatening eye diseases might tell you. Make sure you adopt a healthy lifestyle aimed at optimal eye health and to take regular eye exams, so that any potential problem can be detected and treated as early as possible.