Inflammation can affect the eye, specifically a part of it called the uvea. Therefore doctors call eye inflammation uveitis (like joint inflammation is called arthritis). It can affect part, or all, of the eye or both eyes. Uveitis is the third leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.
What Causes Uveitis?
Uveitis has many causes. Most cases are due to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or infection. In many cases no cause is found. Other causes include eye trauma, medications, and rarely cancer.
What Are the Symptoms Of Uveitis?
Symptoms most commonly are redness, blurring, pain, and light sensitivity. Floaters, flashes and blurry vision can also occur. Sometimes uveitis has no symptoms and is diagnosed only with an eye exam.
How Do You Diagnose Uveitis?
The first step in diagnosing uveitis is a complete history of the illness and review of the medical history. A general physical examination is often helpful. Eye examination including dilation is essential. Specialized pictures of the eye with Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and angiography help characterize the severity of uveitis and its improvement with treatment. Once uveitis has been diagnosed, blood tests are usually ordered to look for what is causing it. More advanced testing is done as necessary.
How Do You Treat Uveitis?
The primary goal of treating uveitis is getting rid of inflammation as fast as possible before it can damage the eye and reduce vision. Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs and are the primary treatment. They are given by eye drop, injection around or in the eye, pill or intravenously. Sometimes side effects of steroids (cataract, glaucoma) limit their use.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are also used. Uveitis from infections are also treated with antibiotics. Sometimes low-dose chemotherapy drugs are needed to control uveitis.
Eye surgery can help treat uveitis. The inflamed areas can be biopsied to determine the cause. Medication can be placed within the eye. The eye can be surgically cleaned of inflammation.
Uveitis is best managed by an eye doctor, sometimes in conjunction with a rheumatologist (a doctor specializing in autoimmune diseases). Often long-term management is required. For many patients, good vision and a normal lifestyle can be maintained.