What Is Uveitis (Iritis)?
Uveitis means inflammation of the uvea, or the middle layer of the eye. The uvea consists of three structures: the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid. Inflammation occurring in any of these three structures is termed "uveitis."
Inflammation in uveitis may involve any but not necessarily all of these three structures. Depending upon which structures are inflamed, uveitis may be further categorized into one of three main diagnoses:
- Iritis or anterior uveitis
- Intermediate uveitis
- Choroiditis or posterior uveitis
In uveitis, different combinations of these symptoms may be present, depending on which part of the eye is inflamed, including:
- Light sensitivity
- Blurry vision
- Pain/tenderness to touch
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have uveitis. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist for a complete exam.
Uveitis may develop following eye trauma or surgery, in association with diseases that affect other organs in the body, or may be a condition isolated to the eye itself. Common conditions associated with uveitis include: sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, and Behcet's disease. Uveitis often results from infectious causes.
Tests and Diagnosis
When evaluating a patient with uveitis, a battery of blood tests may be ordered in an attempt to find a systemic cause. If necessary, patients are sent to a rheumatologist for additional evaluation. When no cause can be found, the condition is described as “idiopathic.” Severe visual loss can result from untreated or undertreated uveitis, including glaucoma, macular edema, iris scarring, retinal damage, and cataract formation. Early detection and treatment is necessary to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss.
Treatment and Drugs
Treatment for uveitis may include: steroid eye drops, injections, or pills, as well as eye drops to dilate the pupil and reduce pain. More severe cases of uveitis may even require treatment with chemotherapeutic agents to suppress the immune system.
Reviewed by Grant M. Comer, M.D., M.S.