A Closer Look at Uveitis

If your eye gets red and your vision blurred, it may be more than just a simple inflammation. Uveitis is a form of inflammation that affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall and impacts 2.3 million people in the U.S. 30,000 of them will go blind as a result.

Uveitis typically hits people between the ages of 30 and 50, but it has been known to affect children as well. In half of the ailment's occurrences, the actual cause of uveitis is not clear. In the other half of the cases, the cause is usually one of the following:

  • Eye injury or surgery
  • An autoimmune disorder, such as sarcoidosis or ankylosing spondylitis
  • An inflammatory disorder, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • An infection, such as cat-scratch disease, herpes zoster, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease or West Nile virus
  • A cancer that affects the eye, such as lymphoma

Because early diagnosis and treatment of uveitis are important to prevent its complications, and because one of those complications can be blindness, visit your doctor if you encounter any of these symptoms:

  • Eye redness
  • Eye pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Dark, floating spots in your field of vision
  • Decreased vision

The doctor – likely an ophthalmologist – will perform a number of tests before she can make a diagnosis. These may include blood tests and an angiography, used to evaluate the retinal blood flow. If your eye doctor determines that the uveitis is a symptom of another underlying condition, she may refer you to another doctor specializing in that condition.

Your treatment will depend on a variety of factors, including the underlying condition, if there is one. Your doctor will most likely prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication in eyedrop form, such as a corticosteroid, to reduce inflammation. If the drops are ineffective, a corticosteroid pill or injection may be prescribed.

Surgical procedures are also an option. A vitrectomy, which removes some of the vitreous from your eye, might be necessary. Another procedure implants a device into your eye to provide a slow and sustained release of a medication.

Caught in time, uveitis may be cured. But it also can come back. See your doctor immediately if your symptoms recur.