What is Uveitis? Here’s What Patients Should Know.

July 16th, 2018
woman rubbing eyes in pain

Seeing floaters and experiencing eye pain are both signs of a disease called uveitis. Here’s how to recognize the symptoms and find the right treatment.

If your eyes are red and swollen, you might have uveitis, which is the term for a group of inflammatory diseases that affects an inside layer of the eyes. Though uveitis is relatively rare – with fewer than 200,000 cases a year – ignoring it can lead to vision loss and discomfort, so it’s important to know the signs. Here’s how to recognize and seek treatment for this painful condition:

What is Uveitis?

Uveitis affects the uvea, the middle layer of the eye that contains the iris and most of the eye’s blood vessels. The condition causes these vessels to swell, leading to inflammation. Uveitis can occur in the front, middle, or back of the eye – or, in some cases, all three.

Some types of uveitis have consistent symptoms, while other forms of the condition come and go. Anterior uveitis, which affects the front of the eye, is usually an acute condition that lasts up to eight weeks (though it can become chronic). Posterior uveitis (in the back of the eye), on the other hand, can develop slowly and last for years.

Causes and Symptoms

Symptoms of uveitis may come about at any time and can affect one or both eyes. These symptoms will vary depending on what type of uveitis you have, but they include pain, redness, light sensitivity, floaters (small dark spots that appear in your field of vision), and blurred vision. If left untreated, uveitis can lead to vision loss and even blindness.

There is not one clear cause for uveitis, but there are some factors that may increase a patient’s risk. Smokers have a higher likelihood of getting uveitis, as well as people with diseases like IBS, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, or people who have infections like shingles, herpes simplex, Lyme disease, and syphilis. Eye injuries that cause chronic inflammation can also play a role.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Like many eye-centric diseases, uveitis is diagnosed through an eye exam, which includes dilation of the pupils in order to examine the back of the eye. To make sure you don’t have another infection or autoimmune disease, your doctor may also perform lab testing and a central nervous system evaluation.

Your doctor can offer several treatment methods that both relieve symptoms and work to restore lost vision. Prescription eye drops containing anti-inflammatory corticosteroids may be recommended for people with anterior uveitis, as well as drops that dilate the eye, which helps decrease pain and swelling. People with intermediate, posterior, and panuveitis may find more success with eye injections, oral medications, or eye implants. Depending on other health-related factors, immunosuppressants may also be a viable treatment method.

The sooner uveitis is treated, the less likely a patient is to experience lasting damage. If you’re starting to notice the symptoms of uveitis or have already been diagnosed and are looking for further treatment, the experts at Swagel Wootton Eye Institute are here to help. We’ll work with you to diagnose your condition and build an effective treatment plan. Schedule your first consultation with us at our Mesa or Chandler locations today.