Uveitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
There are many different diseases that can affect the health of our eyes and our vision. One condition that is common, but that many people are unaware of, is uveitis. Uveitis isn’t usually serious, but it’s possible to suffer from vision loss if you don’t seek professional support fairly quickly from your eye doctor. Here’s what you need to know about uveitis and what you can expect to happen if you are diagnosed with the condition.
What is uveitis and what causes it?
Uveitis is a condition that’s characterized by the swelling of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea. The exact cause of uveitis can vary, but in many cases, the underlying reason for uveitis is never discovered. It is more often seen in people who suffer from autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, herpes, and tuberculosis. Uveitis can also occur following a trauma, such as a blow to the face.
There are different types of uveitis, and these are divided by where the inflammation occurs in the eye.
- Anterior uveitis affects the front part of the eye and is sometimes called iritis because it affects the colored section, called the iris.
- Intermediate uveitis affects the middle part of the eye.
- Posterior uveitis affects the back of the eye.
The trouble with uveitis is that if it is left untreated, it can lead to complications developing later on, particularly if you are over the age of 60 or your uveitis is particularly severe. Some of the complications that can develop include glaucoma, cataracts, and a detached retina.
Symptoms of Uveitis
There are a few different symptoms associated with uveitis, including but not limited to:
- A dull, aching pain in and/or around your eye, which may be worse when you focus on an object
- Redness of the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred or cloudy vision
- Floaters, which are small shapes that move across your field of vision
- Loss of peripheral vision (the edges of your vision)
The symptoms of uveitis can develop gradually over a period of days or weeks or may appear suddenly. They can also appear in just one eye, or in both.
How is uveitis treated?
The treatment that your eye doctor will recommend will depend on what is causing your uveitis, and which type you are experiencing. It may sometimes be necessary to try several different treatments in order to find the one which works best for you. Some of the treatments which you may be offered could include:
Steroid medication is often the first line of treatment for uveitis. They work by disrupting the normal function of the immune system, stopping the release of the chemicals that cause inflammation. Steroids come in several forms including topical eye drops, tablets/capsules, or injections. Whichever your eye doctor recommends, it’s essential that you take them exactly as directed. This is because there is a risk of side effects.
If you are diagnosed with anterior uveitis, our eye doctor may recommend that you use dilating eye drops in addition to taking steroid medication. By dilating your eyes, you can relax your muscles and relieves the discomfort you may have been experiencing. However, it’s important to be aware that dilating eyedrops can temporarily blur your vision, meaning that you shouldn’t drive or perform certain tasks for a short while after using them.
As their name suggests, immunosuppressants are a treatment that is designed to bring your immune system under control in order to counteract the inflammation that is occurring. However, because immunosuppressants lower your immune system function, patients should also be aware that the treatment will make them more susceptible to infection and illness.
Most people who suffer from uveitis find that taking over-the-counter pain relief, using warm compresses on your eyes, and wearing dark glasses can all help to relieve their symptoms too.
If you would like more information about uveitis and how it is treated, or to schedule an appointment to be assessed by our expert team, please contact us today at 718-565-2020.