Understanding uveitis

Uveitis is a form of eye inflammation that affects the middle layer of tissue (uvea) in your eye. This inflammation causes swelling and damages the tissues. The condition can affect one or both eyes and primarily affects people ages 20 to 60. Uveitis can last for a short time (acute) or a long time (chronic), and the worst cases recur many times. Left untreated, uveitis can lead to blindness.

  • The front (anterior) portion of the eye. This includes the colored part of the eye (iris).
  • The middle (intermediate) portion of the eye. The structure that secretes the transparent liquid within the eye is the ciliary body.
  • The back (posterior) portion of the eye. This includes the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue (choroid) between the sclera and the retina.

The retina is the innermost layer of nerve tissue and the sclera is the outer white part of the eye. The uvea is the middle layer. It provides blood flow and nutrition to the deep layers of the retina.

Types of uveitis

The type of uveitis you have depends on the part or parts of the eye that are inflamed, resulting in different symptoms:

  • Anterior uveitis. This type of uveitis affects the front of your eye and is the most common type. Anterior uveitis might cause pain or a dull ache, redness, light sensitivity, and blurred vision. The degree of vision loss depends on the level of inflammation. Many cases occur in healthy people and the cause is often unknown. But the condition might also be associated with eye trauma and inflammatory condition such as arthritis, gastrointestinal and lung diseases. Rarely, systemic drugs such as sulfonamides are to blame.
  • Intermediate uveitis. This type of uveitis affects part of the ciliary body and the jellylike liquid (vitreous) in the eye. Intermediate uveitis is painless and causes visual changes such as floaters or reduced sharpness of vision in young adults. The condition tends to recur. Most commonly, the cause is unknown. But intermediate uveitis also has been linked to multiple sclerosis and an inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis.
  • Posterior uveitis. The least common type of uveitis, posterior uveitis, affects the back of your eye. Similar to intermediate uveitis, posterior uveitis is likely to be painless and cause visual changes such as floaters or reduced sharpness of vision. The cause can be unknown, but various autoimmune diseases, infections such as toxoplasmosis and cancerous growths can play a role.
  • Panuveitis. This type of uveitis occurs when all layers of the uvea are inflamed. It can severely damage the eye. Symptoms include any combination of those that occur with other types of uveitis, including pain, redness, floaters or reduced vision. The cause is often unknown, but the condition has been linked to sarcoidosis and a rare disorder that causes blood vessel inflammation throughout the body

If you've been diagnosed with uveitis, talk to your eye specialist (ophthalmologist) about which type you have. This will help you understand what's happening to your eye or eyes, the type of treatments that are available, and what symptoms to expect in the future. Communicating with your doctor is crucial to managing this complex eye disease.

Nov. 08, 2016 See more In-depth