Uveitis: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Uveitis refers generally to a range of conditions that cause inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, the uvea, and surrounding tissues. It can be painful, the eye or eyes may be red, and vision may be cloudy.

An injury to the eye, a viral or bacterial infection, and some underlying diseases may cause uveitis. It can cause swelling and damage in the tissues of the eye. Untreated, it can lead to vision loss. It can affect one or both eyes.

The term uveitis is not only used to refer to an inflammation of the uvea, but to any part of the inside of the eye. It is not a single disease, and it has different causes.

It is the fifth leading cause of vision loss in the United States, and so it has serious social and economic implications.

It mainly affects people aged from 20 years to 60 years.

Types

[red eye a sign of uveitis]
Red eye can be a sign of uveitis.

The uvea consists collectively of the iris, the choroid of the eye, and the ciliary body. Inflammation of the iris, or iritis, is the most common type of uveitis.

The uvea is also known as the uveal layer, uveal coat, uveal tract, or vascular tunic.

The uvea consists of:

The iris, the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil

The pars plana, one of the layers of the eye

The choroid, a thin, vascular middle layer between the white of the eye, or the sclera, and the retina, the light-sensing part at the back of the eye

The ciliary body, a ring of muscle behind the iris; this body of tissue connects the iris with the choroid

There are different types of uveitis.

Anterior uveitis is also known as iritis, affects the colored part of the eye, the iris. Iridocyclitis is similar, but it include inflammation of the ciliary body.

Intermediate uveitis can be vitritis or pars planitis. Vitritis is an inflammation of the jelly-like part of the eye, the vitreous cavity. An inflammation of the pars plana is called pars planitis.

Posterior uveitis is an inflammation of the retina and choroid. Posterior refers to the back of the eye.

Pan-uveitis is an inflammation in all layers of the uvea.

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Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of uveitis may include:

General vision problems, including blurred or cloudy vision

Floaters, spots in the eye that look like tiny rods or chains of transparent bubbles floating around in the field of vision

Eye pain and redness

Photophobia, an abnormal sensitivity to light

Headaches

A small pupil

Alteration of the color of the iris

Symptoms can appear on gradually or rapidly.

Causes

The exact cause of uveitis is often unclear, but some factors increase the chance of it happening.

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