Uveitis triggers redness and itchiness in the eyes. Without treatment, it can quickly progress from discomfort to permanent vision loss.
This form of inflammation affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye and is usually seen in patients between 20 and 50 years old.
How can I tell if I have uveitis?
Inflammation in the Eye is Often Hard to Miss
Changes in Eye Appearance
Uveitis often causes a range of changes in the appearance of your eye, from intense redness to unusually small pupils.
Swelling from inflammation can lead to eye pain and light sensitivity. However, not all types of uveitis cause pain.
Changes to Your Vision
Many patients with uveitis notice blurred vision or dark floating spots in front of their vision.
Smoking Increases Your Risk for Eye Inflammation
Several studies have shown a significant link between smoking cigarettes and the development of uveitis. Certain genetic abnormalities can also increase your vulnerability to the condition.
So what actually causes uveitis?
Uveitis Can Stem from Many Sources
Because the middle layer of the eye contains a high level of blood vessels, viral, fungal, and bacterial infections throughout the body can potentially reach the eye and cause uveitis.
Systemic Inflammatory Diseases
There are a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders associated with uveitis, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and tuberculosis.
An eye injury or surgery can result in inflammation in the eye.
"Although uveitis can lead to blindness, and commonly does so, appropriate management can improve the prognosis steadily." Douglas A. Jabs, MD
Living a Healthy Life Can Reduce Risk
Make Simple Lifestyle Changes
Because both smoking and stress are connected to the development of uveitis, making simple changes to your lifestyle to limit both can reduce your chances of a flare-up.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Choosing foods which support your immune system, such as fruits and vegetables, can also minimize your chances of developing uveitis.
Protect against Infection and Trauma
Reducing your exposure to potential infection, especially while traveling, and wearing protective eyewear during sports can further decrease the risk of inflammation.
An Easy, Painless Diagnosis
Uveitis is often diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. After asking about your medical history, including any eye surgeries or injuries, your doctor will:
- Dilate your pupils to examine the inside of your eye
- Check your eye movements and peripheral vision
- Have you read off an eye chart
If there are signs of inflammation, they may also:
- Measure the level of pressure in your eye
- Utilize a slit lamp microscope to check for swelling and inflammation
- Use a special dye to examine the blood vessels for damage
Depending on the results of this exam, further tests may be needed.
Since uveitis is often linked to infection and other diseases, your doctor may use a blood test to confirm their diagnosis. In some cases, additional tests such as an MRI, CT scan, or x-ray are needed to accurately identify uveitis.
Treatment Tailored to Your Needs
Generally referred to as steroids, this type of medication blocks chemicals causing inflammation. Steroids are typically the first treatment offered for uveitis and are available as eye drops, pills, and injections.
Treatment for Infection
If the root cause of your uveitis is a viral or bacterial infection, your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic or antiviral medication to fight the infection. Typically, uveitis will clear once the infection does.
In certain cases, uveitis can occur when your immune system attacks your own body. Know as autoimmunity, you may need to take an immunosuppressant to stop the inflammation.
For severe, recurring uveitis, your doctor may recommend surgery. Common options include a vitrectomy to remove inflamed gel inside your eye and intraocular implant surgery to treat uveitis at the back of the eye.
Protect Your Vision
According to recent studies, uveitis is a leading cause of vision loss in working-age adults in the U.S. However, with early and consistent treatment you can reduce uncomfortable symptoms and protect your vision. If you have noticed changes to your eyesight or the appearance of your eye, speak to a doctor right away.