Inflammatory Eye Disease (Uveitis): Causes and Treatments

Inflammatory eye disease, also known as uveitis, occurs most frequently in people ages 20 to 60 and affects men and women equally. It encompasses a group of diseases that produce swelling in the eye and destroy eye tissues. Uveitis can reduce vision and even lead to severe vision loss.

The name “uveitis” comes from the part of the eye affected by the disease, the uvea. However, uveitis is not limited to the uvea and can also affect the lens, retina, optic nerve and vitreous, producing reduced vision and possibly blindness if left untreated. Uveitis can last for a short (acute) or long (chronic) time. Severe forms of the disease can reoccur many times.

Uveitis can be caused by complications or diseases that occur in the eye and can also result from inflammatory diseases that affect other parts of the body. The inflammatory response inside the eye can produce swelling, redness and heat, and can destroy tissues as white blood cells swarm the affected area.

Causes of inflammatory eye disease include:

  • An attack from the body’s own immune system (autoimmune disorders)
  • Infection
  • Tumors occurring within the eye or other parts of the body
  • Bruises to the eye
  • Toxins that may penetrate the eye

Because uveitis can develop rapidly, it’s essential that you are aware of the symptoms and see your eye doctor immediately if you notice any of them.

Common symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dark floating spots in the vision (floaters)
  • Eye pain
  • Redness of the eye
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

During an eye exam for inflammatory eye disease, your eye doctor will perform a thorough exam which can include a visual acuity test to measure where your vision has decreased. They’ll also dilate the pupils to inspect the back of the eye. Additionally, your eye doctor may check the ocular pressure of your eye and may recommend lab tests to rule out an infection or an autoimmune disorder.

The goal of treatment is to eliminate inflammation, alleviate pain, and prevent further tissue damage, as well as restore any vision that was lost. Treatment depends on the type of uveitis you are diagnosed with. Common treatments include corticosteroid eye drops and injections around the eye or inside the eye, which can also be combined with antibiotics in the case of infectious uveitis. These steroids can also be delivered by mouth or intravenous infusion.

Cycloplegic drops (dilating drops) can help limit light sensitivity pain and scarring of the iris. Additional treatment options include systemic therapy by mouth, injection, or intravenous infusion. Surgery is also a viable option for both the diagnosis and treatment of uveitis.

Protecting your vision starts with knowing what to be on the lookout for. If you notice any changes in your vision, it’s time to see your eye doctor. Regular eye exams are the best way to protect your vision. With many diseases like uveitis, the sooner the disease is diagnosed, the better the prognosis for your vision.

Call Illinois Eye Center at (309) 243-2400 to make an appointment today.

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