What is Uveitis?
Uveitis is an eye condition that describes inflammation of the uvea, which consists of the vascular structures of the eye, including the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. The uvea is the middle layer between the retina and the sclera (the white of the eye). As the blood vessels of the uvea provide nourishment for many parts of the eye, untreated uveitis can damage your eye and vision. Uveitis can also be associated with disease in other parts of the body, such as sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Uveitis is estimated to be the cause of 10%-20% of the blindness in the United States and the third leading cause of blindness in developed countries.
Types of Uveitis
- Anterior uveitis (Iritis) affects the front of the eye, and is the most common type of uveitis. Acute anterior uveitis usually develops suddenly and an episode may last six to eight weeks. Chronic anterior uveitis may last years.
- Intermediate uveitis (pars planitis) affects the middle or intermediate region of the eye. This type of uveitis is typically persistent, and may go through cycles of getting better, then worse. Episodes of intermediate uveitis can last between weeks to years.
- Posterior uveitis affects the back of the eye, namely the retina and choroid. It can develop suddenly or slowly and usually can last for years.
- Panuveitis describes inflammation of all parts of the eye.
Diagnosis and Treatment
An accurate diagnosis of uveitis requires a comprehensive eye examination done by an ophthalmologist and a thorough recording of the patient's medical history to determine an underlying cause. Blood tests, X-rays, skin tests, and biopsies may also be required to make a proper diagnosis. These tests will help identify the type of uveitis and how to treat it.
Inflammation caused by anterior uveitis is typically treated with corticosteroid drops and pupil dilating drops to decrease inflammation and prevent scarring. Intermediate uveitis, posterior uveitis, and panuveitis typically require more complex treatment involving corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents.