Uveitis is swelling of the middle layer of the eye, which is called the uvea. The uvea supplies blood to the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive part of the eye that focuses the images you see and sends them to the brain. It is normally red due to its blood supply from the uvea.
In many cases, particularly in healthy individuals, the cause is unknown. Some types of uveitis may be caused by an underlying autoimmune or inflammatory disorder. An autoimmune disease occurs when your own immune system attacks a part of your body. These conditions include:
Other potential causes of uveitis include exposure to a toxin that penetrates the eye or bruising, injury, or trauma to the eye
There are many types of uveitis. Each type is classified by where the inflammation occurs in the eye. They include:
Anterior uveitis is often referred to as “iritis” because it affects the iris. The iris is the colored part of the eye near the front. Iritis is the most common type of uveitis and generally occurs in healthy people. It can affect one eye, or it may affect both eyes at once. Iritis is usually the least serious type of uveitis
Intermediate uveitis involves the middle part of the eye and is also called iridocyclitis. The word intermediate in the name refers to the location of the inflammation and not the severity of the inflammation. The middle part of the eye includes the pars plana, the part of the eye between the iris and the choroid.
Posterior uveitis may also be referred to as choroiditis because it affects the choroid. The tissue and blood vessels of the choroid are important because they deliver blood to the back of the eye. This type of uveitis usually occurs in people with an infection from a virus, parasite, or fungus, or who have an autoimmune disease. Posterior uveitis tends to be more serious than anterior uveitis because it can cause scarring in the retina. The retina is a layer of cells in the back of the eye. However, posterior uveitis is the least common form of uveitis.
When the inflammation affects all major parts of the eye, it is called pan-uveitis. It often involves a combination of features and symptoms from all three types of uveitis.
When you visit an eye specialist (ophthalmologist), your doctor will likely conduct a complete eye exam and gather a thorough health history.
If an ophthalmologist suspects an underlying condition to be the cause of your uveitis, you may be referred to another doctor for a general medical examination and laboratory tests.
Sometimes, it's difficult to find a specific cause for uveitis. However, your doctor will try to determine whether your uveitis has an infectious cause or results from some other disease.
Treatment for uveitis depends on the cause and the type of uveitis. The goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in the eye.
Treatment of uveitis may include:
Uveitis can come back. Make an appointment with your doctor if any of your symptoms reappear after successful treatment.
Uveitis will typically go away within a few days with treatment. Uveitis that affects the back of the eye (posterior uveitis) typically heals more slowly than uveitis that affects the front of the eye. Relapses are common.
Posterior uveitis due to another condition may persist for months and can cause permanent vision damage.
Untreated uveitis can lead to serious complications, including: