Uveitis, also referred to as iritis, is inflammation that develops in the uvea, which is the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall. However, the word uveitis is also often used as an umbrella term for any inflammation of the eye, including in the vitreous and retina. True uveitis can develop for many reasons, but the most common are autoimmune and immunologic disorders, infection (bacterial, fungal, or viral), and eye injury. Sometimes, uveitis occurs for no discernible reason. Uveitis can be harmless and easily treatable; however, it can also sometimes lead to vision loss if left untreated. Further, uveitis can often be an indicator of a more serious problem, such as the immunological disorders mentioned above.
The most common and obvious symptoms of uveitis are redness and pain, both of which can get increasingly worse and cause other complications. If you are in the Greenbelt or Bowie, MD areas and think you may have uveitis, we urge you to seek a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible at Solomon Eye Physicians & Surgeons. Our in-house ocular inflammation specialist, Dr. Michelle Tarver, has over 15 years of experience with diagnosing and treating uveitis. She works closely with each patient to get to the root of the inflammation and prevent any further complications.
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Types of Uveitis
There are three types of uveitis, which are categorized based on where they occur in the eye:
- Anterior uveitis: This is uveitis in the front of the eye (in the iris and ciliary body area) and is the most common type. Symptoms of anterior uveitis are typically eye redness, light sensitivity, and discomfort or pain.
- Intermediate uveitis: This is uveitis in the middle of the eye (the vitreous) and often has no symptoms other than the patient experiencing floaters and/or blurred vision.
- Posterior uveitis: This is uveitis in the back of the eye (retina and choroid) and is the least common type. It is also the most severe and can often lead to vision loss if not treated.
- Pan-uveitis: This is uveitis of the whole eye and is also known as diffuse uveitis. It is also quite severe and can lead to vision loss if not treated properly.
Symptoms of Uveitis
While there are many causes and types of uveitis, there are only a handful of common symptoms, the most common of which is eye redness. The redness that occurs with uveitis is severe, and you will not be likely to mistake it for allergies or a reaction to an irritant. Other symptoms common to uveitis include:
- Mild to severe eye pain
- Hazy or blurry vision
- Sudden floaters or spots in the vision
- Sensitivity to light
The symptoms of uveitis may develop very gradually, or they may come on quite suddenly, depending on the severity and type of uveitis.
Causes of Uveitis
There are many conditions that can lead to or cause uveitis, such as infection, injury, cancer, and autoimmune/inflammatory diseases. Discerning the cause of the uveitis is very important in determining the best way to treat it. For example, infectious uveitis will be treated quite differently than uveitis associated with an autoimmune disorder.
While there are several possible causes of uveitis, the most common are autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Grave's disease
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lyme disease
When you visit Solomon Eye Physicians & Surgeons for uveitis, Dr. Tarver will perform a thorough examination, including pupil dilation, to determine its location and severity. She may also perform a fluorescein angiography or an OCT (optical coherence tomography) imaging test. She will also need to know your full medical history, any medications you are taking, how long you have had uveitis, and if it is affecting both eyes, how long the first eye was affected before the second. Dr. Tarver uses all of this information, as well as other possible lab tests, to determine your diagnosis, the cause of your uveitis, and how to treat it.
Treatment and Prognosis
The treatment for uveitis will depend on its cause and location. If Dr. Tarver determines that your uveitis is caused by an existing immunologic or inflammatory disease, she will work closely with your rheumatologist to determine your best course of treatment. If she believes you have an undiagnosed immunologic or inflammatory condition, she will be able to refer you to a specialist. It is very important that your underlying condition is treated properly along with your uveitis.
Beyond managing your underlying condition, the treatments for uveitis target the complications that can occur due to inflammation, including scar tissue, glaucoma, macular edema, and eye pain. Some common methods used to reduce the risk of these complications are steroid eye drops or injections, dilation and pain-reducing eye drops, and immunosuppressive medications.
If uveitis and its underlying condition are treated early enough, most patients are able to recover easily and avoid permanent vision loss or tissue damage. However, leaving uveitis untreated can cause permanent damage and vision loss so it is very important to see an ophthalmologist right away if you have uveitis symptoms.
Plan Your Procedure
see a Uveitis specialist
Michelle Tarver, M.D. specializes in diagnosing and treating ocular inflammation, including uveitis. She has the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to determine your proper treatment and ensure you get the quality care you need. If you believe you may have uveitis, we encourage you to schedule an examination with Solomon Eye Physicians & Surgeons right away.