Uveitis specifically refers to inflammation of the uvea, the middle part of the eye that consists of the iris, ciliary body and the choroid. Though the cause of the condition is mostly unknown, uveitis is often associated with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, viral infection, trauma to the eye or exposure to toxins. Depending on the types of uveitis, patients may experience symptoms such as redness, tearing, blur vision, dark spots in the visual fields and sensitivity to light.
Depending on the portion of the uvea that is affected, there are a few types of uveitis:
This is the most common type of uveitis and usually develops suddenly but may take 6 to 8 weeks to resolve. It may sometime be referred to as iritis when the iris, which is the front portion of the uvea, is affected.
This occurs when the the middle region of the uvea including the ciliary body and the area behind it (towards the vitreous and retina) is affected. Episodes of intermediate uveitis can last a few weeks to years.
This is a rare form of uveitis that affects the back part of the eye, including the choroid, retina and even the optic nerve. It usually develops very slowly and last for many years hence is often associated with progressive loss of vision.
The term panuveitis is used when all 3 major parts of the uvea are affected.
The treatment approach of uveitis depends on part of the uvea that is affected and its underlying factors. The common approach includes prescription eye drops to dilate the pupil (when iris is affected) and steroid eye drops to suppress the inflammation. Patients with uveitis may be referred to another specialist for investigations to rule out presence of infectious or autoimmune diseases in the body.
If left untreated, uveitis may lead to other eye conditions such as:
- Glaucoma -damage to the optic nerve due to increased pressure in the eye
- Cataract – clouding of the natural lens in the eye
- Growth of new abnormal blood vessels in the eye (neovascularisation)
- Severe damage to the retina or the optic nerve in the eye
These complications will then have to be treated with eye drops or surgical procedure.