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Eye Health Information

Uveitis

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Uveitis

Introduction

Uveitis is a term used to describe a broad number of inflammatory diseases that produce swelling and redness within the eye, and ultimately destroys eye tissue. Untreated or under-treated uveitis, or repeated episodes of inflammation within the eye, can lead to scarring and blinding consequences.

Uveitis usually occurs within the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, which is made up of the iris, ciliary body and choroid. However, the disease isn’t just limited to the uvea, it can also affect the lens, retina, optic nerve and vitreous.

Uveitis is a rare and serious condition and requires urgent examination and treatment in order to control the inflammation.

Uveitis is the third leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Types of uveitis

Eye specialists may describe the disease more specifically as:

Anterior uveitis – the most common form of uveitis, occurs in young to middle-aged people and accounts for 75% of cases. Occurs when the iris and the ciliary body become inflamed. Has been linked to individuals suffering from rheumatologic, skin, gastrointestinal, lung and infectious diseases.

Intermediate uveitis – most commonly occurring in children, teenagers and young adults, occurs when the area behind the ciliary body and the retina becomes inflamed. Has been linked to individuals suffering from sarcoidosis and multiple sclerosis.

Posterior uveitis – the least common type. Occurs when the choroid and the retina at the back of the eye becomes inflamed. Often called choroditis or chorioretinitis.

Panuveitis uveitis – a term used when all three major parts of the eye are affected by inflammation.

Some eye specialists may also use the terms infectious or non-infectious uveitis.

Causes and risk factors

The cause of uveitis is not always clear as  there are many things that can cause this condition such as injury or infection of the eye, or various underlying health conditions. Health conditions associated with uveitis may be;

  • inflammatory or autoimmune conditions
  • bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infections
  • immune-deficiency diseases

A list of diseases associated with uveitis are: AIDS, Ankylosing spondylitis, Behcet’s syndrome, CMV retinitis, Herpes zoster infection, Histoplasmosis, Kawasaki disease, Multiple sclerosis, Psoriasis, Reactive arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sarcoidosis, Syphilis, Toxoplasmosis, Tuberculosis, Ulcerative colitis and Vogt Koyanagi Harada’s disease.

Symptoms

The symptoms of uveitis will depend on the type of inflammation within the eye, symptoms may affect one or both eyes.

Timing:

symptoms may develop gradually over hours or days, lasting a few weeks (acute) or for more than three months (chronic). The severest forms of uveitis reoccur many times.

Common symptoms include:

  • redness is the eye,
  • blurred or cloudy vision,
  • a smaller pupil in the affected eye,
  • a different coloured iris,
  • pain in the eye(s),
  • increased sensitivity to light (photophobia),
  • dark floating spots in the vision.

Diagnosis

Uveitis can affect any age from infancy onwards, however the average age of patients presenting with this condition is 40 years. An uveitis diagnosis requires a thorough examination by an ophthalmologist, including a detailed look into your past and present health history.

The type of eye examinations used to establish an uveitis diagnosis is;

  • an eye chart or visual acuity test,
  • a funduscopic exam,
  • ocular pressure test,
  • a slit lamp exam.

Treatment

The type of treatment chosen will depend on the type of inflammation present.

The use of steroids, either as eye drops or injections, inside or around the eye is common and prescribed to target the actual eye. Immunosuppressive agents can be taken via the mouth and are used to treat inflammation occurring at the back of the eyes. Prior to the administration of some steroids, corneal ulcers must be ruled out and is typically done using a safe dye test.

Other treatments may be considered, such as time-release capsules that are surgically implanted inside the eye, however, a thorough examination with an ophthalmologist will help establish which treatment is best for your individual case.  

The Lions Eye Institute also conducts an array of Clinical Trials. You can view these on our Clinical Trials page.

Further information and support

Please contact The Lions Eye Institute to make an appointment with the appropriate ophthalmologist.  A current referral from either a GP, or an optometrist, is required for all appointments.

Australian and international references

www.nei.nih.gov
www.moorfields-private.co.uk
www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
www.uveitis.org

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