What is it?
Uveitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the eye. It affects the uveal layer of the eye, which is a pigmented tissue that lies beneath the wall of the eye. It can present in many different ways, however common symptoms include redness, pain, light sensitivity, decreased vision, and floaters.
What causes it?
There are numerous conditions that can cause uveitis, which may be broadly divided into infectious and non-infectious categories. In the United States, 25 to 50% of cases of uveitis are secondary to non-infectious or autoimmune diseases such as sarcoidosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. These diseases may affect other parts of the body and require management and follow up with other medical specialists such as rheumatologists. Uveitis may also be caused by infections from bacteria, viruses, or, in rare cases, fungi or parasites. It is important to note that 30% of uveitis cases are ultimately found to have no known cause.
Is it dangerous?
The severity of uveitis can vary significantly, however nearly all forms can become sight-threatening and result in irreversible vision loss if left untreated. Additionally, because of their frequent association with systemic diseases, uveitis can be the first sign of a potentially life-threatening condition. For this reason, all new cases of uveitis should be promptly evaluated and thoroughly worked up by an ophthalmologist who is comfortable with the diagnosis and management of uveitic conditions.
How do we treat it?
The management of uveitis can also vary considerably based on the underlying cause and location of the inflammation. Frequently, eyedrops with steroid medications along with dilating eyedrops are used initially to manage the inflammation and pain. More aggressive forms of uveitis may also require steroid tablets taken by mouth, or the injection of steroids either within or around the eye. The most aggressive types of uveitis may require advanced immunosuppressive medications that is undertaken in conjunction with a rheumatologist, or even surgical removal of intraocular inflammatory material by a vitreoretinal surgeon.
With timely evaluation, work-up, and follow-up, the majority of uveitic conditions can be treated and managed successfully so that patients with these conditions may live healthy and productive lives with good vision.