Uveitis, a leading cause of blindness in the United States, is inflammation of the iris (the colored part of the eye), the ciliary body (cells behind the iris responsible for producing fluid), and the choroid (the cell layer behind the retina) of the eye. These parts make up the uveal tract. The uveal layer of cells extends to the back of the eye and is between the retina and the sclera. This layer is filled with blood vessels and supplies blood to the retina (light sensitive lining at the back of the eye).
There are different types of uveitis. Symptoms vary, but may include pain, redness, sensitivity to light, blurry vision and floaters or spots.
Anterior uveitis, the most common form of uveitis, occurs in the front of the eye. This disease is most common between the ages of 20 and 50 and can affect one or both eyes. Many cases occur independently of other medical disorders, but anterior uveitis can be associated with inflammation elsewhere in the body.
Also called iritis or non-granulomatous uveitis, anterior uveitis is usually treated with steriod drops. It usually lasts a few days to a few weeks even with treatment, and recurrences are common. Chronic forms of uveitis are less common but can last months or years.
Posterior uveitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the back portion of the eye. This condition is often associated with systemic diseases. Depending upon where the inflammation occurs, and the amount of scarring in that area, vision loss can result. Vision loss can arise from swelling in the retina, debris in the vitreous, cataract formation or glaucoma.
Also called choriodoretinitis retinitis or intermediate uveitis, posterior uveitis is usually treated by first discovering the systemic disease that may be causing the inflammation, then treating it. Steroids and chemotherapy can help decrease inflammation of the eye. Surgery is sometimes required.
Posterior uveitis usually lasts longer than anterior uveitis and can remain for months to years.
The inflammation of uveitis can cause complications in the eye such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinal damage. It is important to seek medical attention by an ophthalmologist if any ocular symptoms arise.
The ophthalmologist uses a slit lamp and an ophthalmoscope to examine for signs of inflammation. Underlying causes may be ascertained by a physical exam and laboratory tests.