Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, which is a tissue inside the eye. The uvea is made up of three parts:
Inflammation can affect any or all of these parts. Symptoms, treatment, and effects are different depending on which parts of the eye are affected.
Most of the time, the cause of uveitis is not known. It can be related to autoimmune diseases that affect other parts of the body, such as sarcoidosis and some types of arthritis. Less often, infections like herpes, syphilis, or Lyme disease can cause uveitis.
Uveitis that involves the front part of the eye has the following symptoms:
These symptoms may happen in just one eye. They tend to appear suddenly and worsen quickly.
When the middle or back part of the eye is affected, the only symptom may be problems with your vision. You may see floaters (specks in your field of vision that look like little bugs or threads). Both eyes may be affected but not to the same degree.
Your eye care provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your eyes. Usually he or she will dilate (enlarge) your pupils to better see the inside of your eye. Your eye care provider will look closely to see which parts of your eye are inflamed. You may need blood tests or X-rays to check for other diseases.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in your eye and make you more comfortable.
If the inflammation is caused by an infection, you will be given medicines to treat the infection and steroid medicines to control the inflammation.
You may start using steroid medicine as eyedrops. If the eyedrops do not help, you may be given pills to take by mouth or shots around or into the eye. Corticosteroids may cause cataracts or high eye pressure. Uveitis itself can also cause cataracts and high eye pressure. Your provider will check your progress closely.
As the inflammation is brought under control, your provider will have you gradually stop using the drops and pills. It is very important to follow your provider’s instructions closely. A sudden decrease in these medicines can cause the inflammation to come back.
If the inflammation is so severe that you need to take high doses of steroids or if the steroids are not helping enough, you may need to take another type of medicine called an immunosuppressant. You will be watched closely for side effects. You will need to have blood tests regularly.
Some people need surgery to implant a tiny pellet of steroid medicine in the eye. The implant slowly delivers the medicine for several months. Ask your provider about this.
The effects of uveitis depend on its cause. When the cause can be found and treated, you may not have any long-term effects. When uveitis is related to a problem that affects other parts of your body, the effects will last until you get proper treatment for that problem.
Uveitis may come back. See your eye care provider promptly if any of your symptoms return. If it is not treated, uveitis can cause problems such as:
Because the cause is usually not known, most cases probably cannot be prevented. Be sure to get treatment for medical problems that may cause uveitis.