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What is Uveitis?
Uveitis (u-ve-I-tis) is inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye. The uvea consists of the iris, choroid and ciliary body. The choroid is sandwiched between the retina and the white of the eye (sclera), and it provides blood flow to the deep layers of the retina. The most common type of uveitis is an inflammation of the iris called iritis (anterior uveitis).
Infections, injury and autoimmune disorders may be associated with the development of uveitis, though the exact cause is often unknown.
Uveitis can be serious, leading to permanent vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent the complications of uveitis.
Types of Uveitis
There are several types of uveitis, defined by the part of the eye where it occurs.
Iritis affects the front of your eye also called anterior uveitis this is the most common type of uveitis. Iritis usually develops suddenly and may last six to eight weeks. Some types of anterior uveitis can be chronic or recurrent.
If the uvea is inflamed in the middle or intermediate region of the eye, it is called pars planitis or intermediate uveitis. Episodes of pars planitis can last between a few weeks to years. The disease goes through cycles of getting better, then worse.
Posterior uveitis affects the back parts of your eye. Posterior uveitis can develop slowly and often lasts for many years.
Panuveitis occurs when all layers of the uvea are inflamed.
Causes of Uveitis
Sometimes, the specific cause of uveitis isn’t clear. However, in some people, uveitis is associated with -
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Symptoms of Uveitis
In any of these conditions, the jelly-like material in the center of your eye (vitreous) can also become inflamed and infiltrated with inflammatory cells.
Symptoms may occur suddenly and get worse quickly, though in some cases, symptoms develop gradually. Symptoms may be noticeable in one or both eyes.
Diagnosis of Uveitis
Uveitis can permanently damage your eyesight and even cause blindness. Therefore, if you have any symptoms of uveitis, is very important for you to see an eye specialist right away.
The eye specialist will perform a careful exam of your eyes. He or she may order lab tests including blood work or X-rays since the list of possible causes can be long.
Uveitis may have an underlying cause elsewhere in your body, and the eye specialist may want to talk with your regular health care provider or another specialist to evaluate your overall health.
Treatments of Uveitis
Uveitis is a serious eye condition that may scar the eye. It needs to be treated as soon as possible. Eyedrops, especially corticosteroids and pupil dilators, can reduce inflammation and pain. For more severe inflammation, oral medication or injections may be necessary. If left untreated, uveitis may lead to -
These complications may also need treatment with eye drops, conventional surgery or laser surgery. Treatment of uveitis may include -
Anti-inflammatory medication - your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, such as a corticosteroid, to treat your uveitis. This medication may be given as eyedrops. Or, you may be given corticosteroid pills or an injection into the eye. For people with difficult-to-treat posterior uveitis, a device that’s implanted in your eye may be an option. This device slowly releases corticosteroid medication into your eye for about 2 1/2 years.
Antibiotic or antiviral medication - if uveitis is caused by an infection, antibiotics, antiviral medications or other medicines may be given with or without corticosteroids to bring the infection under control.
Immunosuppressive or cell-destroying (cytotoxic) medication - immunosuppressive or cytotoxic agents may be necessary if your uveitis doesn’t respond well to corticosteroids or becomes severe enough to threaten your vision.
Surgery - vitrectomy surgery to remove some of the jelly-like material in your eye (vitreous) may be necessary both for diagnosis and management of your uveitis. A small sample of the vitreous can help identify a specific cause of eye inflammation, such as a virus, bacterium or lymphoma. The procedure may also be used to remove developing scar tissue in the vitreous.
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