What is uveitis?
Uveitis is a general term that encompasses a host of inflammatory eye conditions and diseases. Uveitis can be mild to moderate to severe but most typically, it creates swelling and causes degradation to eye tissue. If any of the eye health issues that fall under uveitis are left untreated, there’s a chance they can weaken or destroy one’s vision.
This umbrella term was aptly named because it most often affects the area of the eye called the uvea. However, uveitis may also spread to affect other areas including the retina, optic nerve and cornea. Uveitis can be acute – lasting only a short while – or chronic, demanding treatment. People within the 20 – 60 age range are more likely to suffer from uveitis than others outside this age window.
What causes uveitis?
Our body’s immune system uses inflammatory responses to fight several issues. From foreign invaders like bacteria to toxins we personally ingest, like alcohol, inflammation is a normal physical response used to process, kill or drive out toxins, viruses or bacteria. However, when inflammation to something within the sensitive eye area occurs, uveitis may follow suit. The inflammatory response within the eye may be triggered by the following things:
- Autoimmune issues. When the immune system doesn’t function properly and begins attacking itself, the body has ceased working normally and can cause numerous issues. Lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism and other autoimmune diseases can all cause issues to appear throughout the body, including in the eyes.
- Injury. If you’ve suffered a bruise or laceration from an eye or face injury, inflammation would be the body’s typical response to heal that area. This could cause acute uveitis that would most likely clear up on its own as the injury subsides.
- Infection. It’s no secret that we exist amongst millions upon millions of bacteria and viruses. When any one of these works its way into the eye, we can experience uveitis as the body attempts to clear it.
- Toxins. If topical ointments, make-up or other products work their way past our eye lashes into the eye, uveitis may develop as a response to attempting to clear out toxins.
- Unknown. It is more common that many cases of uveitis have unknown causes.
Uveitis presents itself as either anterior uveitis, intermediate uveitis or posterior uveitis, depending on which area of the eye it appears in. Additionally, it’s also classified as infectious or noninfectious uveitis.
The three different types of uveitis are:
- Anterior uveitis. This instance occurs in the front of the eye and adversely affects younger populations.
- Intermediate uveitis. This uveitis appears in the vitreous of the eye and can be linked to autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and sarcoidosis.
- Posterior uveitis. The rarest form of uveitis, inflammation occurs in the back of the eye, affecting the retina and choroid.
What are the symptoms of Uveitis?
The symptoms are like many other eye disorders, making it difficult to distinguish uveitis from other eye problems. Symptoms can include:
- Loss of vision
- Light sensitivity
- Eye pain
What diseases are commonly associated with Uveitis?
Uveitis can occur because of an autoimmune disorder or other disease. Some of the more commonly linked diseases include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
- Fungal infection.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS).
How is Uveitis diagnosed?
Having an established medical history with your eye doctor is important in the diagnosis of uveitis. Regardless of if the eye condition is chronic or acute, it’s important that your ophthalmologist have a good understanding of your eye history and development over time.
Lab tests may first be conducted to rule out autoimmune diseases, bacterial or viral infections or other eye problems.
Diagnostic tactics for uveitis include:
- A routine eye exam and visual acuity test. Your ophthalmologist may first test your overall eye ability with a routine eye exam in which you read letters on a chart. This simple exam takes place at the ophthalmology office and allows your eye doctor to compare current results with your eyesight history to consider if your vision has been affected.
- Funduscopic examination. First, your ophthalmologist widens the pupil with a dilating liquid. Then, he or she will use a microscope to look through the pupil to the back of the eye to look for any inflammation or damage.
- Ocular pressure test. This test is also used frequently in routine eye examinations to test for glaucoma. A tonometer or tonopen measures pressure in the eye by blowing puffs of air into it. Depending on your eye sensitivity, eye drops may be used to numb the area.
- Silt Lamp Examination. Typically, a dye is used to temporarily stain the eye and color the blood vessels for ease of inspection. Then, a silt lamp is used to magnify and illuminate the front portion of the eye in an attempt to see if inflammatory cells exist.
- Blood test. If your opthamologist suspects the uveitis is caused by an underlying issue, they may order a blood test to rule out possible STIs or other infectious causes.
How to treat Uveitis
If your ophthalmologist determines that you have uveitis, don’t fear. There are ways to treat this eye disorder and manage the underlying cause of it, if applicable. Treatment varies based upon the cause of uveitis. If your doctor can pinpoint the cause, they may work to treat the cause and the symptoms that uveitis is causing, simultaneously. This may take collaborative efforts from different doctors in varying specialties.
Some common treatment options include:
- Corticosteroid drops. To reduce swelling and quell the immune system response, your ophthalmologist may prescribe corticosteroid drops. However, this may only be helpful in treating cases of anterior uveitis.
- Anti-inflammatory prescription oral medication. Depending on the location of the uveitis, oral medication like steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs may be necessary. A course of medication may be ordered for a short while because side effects from prescription medication should not be withstood for long periods of time.
- Corticosteroid injections. In lieu of corticosteroid eye drops or oral steroid medication, corticosteroid injections in the eye may be necessary if you suffer from posterior uveitis.
- Immunosuppressives. If the underlying cause of uveitis relates to an autoimmune disorder, your eye doctor can work in conjunction with your endocrinologist to determine a course of immunosuppressive drugs that take care of the uveitis while helping you manage the autoimmune disorder. Immunosuppressives have some side effects, including weight gain.
- Intraocular drug delivery. In a recent clinical trial, an implant was inserted into the eye to deliver corticosteroid drugs including prednisone and fluocinolone. Over the course of four weeks, this intraocular drug delivery proved to reduce inflammation. For those with other health issues like stomach ulcers, bypassing the digestive system with harsh steroidal drugs is a huge benefit to this type of treatment.
Uveitis is Treatable with Action.
Since uveitis is an eye disease caused by inflammation, it’s imperative that the patient seek treatment immediately to determine whether the condition is caused by a more serious, underlying issue. It’s never too early, or too late, to establish a relationship with an ophthalmologist in Orlando. They can begin to learn your medical history, get to know your eyes and thus, be more prepared to treat any conditions that arise overtime.
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