Kenneth O. Sparks, M.D.
Vitreo-Retinal Surgery & Ophthalmology

Appointments online or call 323-655-8036
Services & Treatments


 

Uveitis

Uveitis refers to the inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye. It also may refer to any type of inflammation to the interior of the eye and not just the uvea. The eye is shaped much like a tennis ball, with three different layers of tissue surrounding a gel-filled cavity. The innermost layer us the retina, which senses light and helps sends images to the brain. The middle layer between the sclera and retina is called the uvea. The outermost layer is the sclera, the strong white wall of the eye. Uveitis is responsible for approximately 10% of blindness in the United States and requires urgent medical attention by an ophthalmologist or eye doctor to treat the inflammation.

What is the Importance of the Uvea?

The uvea contains many blood vessels, the veins and arteries that carry blood flow to the eye. Since it nourishes many important parts of the eye (such as the retina), inflammation of the uvea can damage your sight.

What Types of Uveitis Occur?

Uveitis can be classified into four forms: anterior, intermediate, posterior, and panuveitic which is based on which part of the eye is affected by the inflammation.
  • Anterior Uveitis occurs in about 75% of all uveitis cases. This type of uveitis involves the iris, can be relatively mild, and may occur as a single episode, resolving with proper treatment. The disease can, however, become recurring and chronic.
  • Intermediate Uveitis occurs when the inflammation extends into the vitreous cavity.
  • Posterior Uveitis is characterized by more severe inflammation involving the retina and choroid.
  • Pan-uveitis is said to develop when all layers of the uvea demonstrate inflammation.

What Symptoms Accompany Uveitis?

Symptoms include red eye (occasionally very severe), conjunctivitis, pain, and decreased vision. The ciliary vessels may become dilated. Blurry vision, eye pain, and sensitivity to light may also be present, with some patients experiencing dark, floating spots in their field of vision. Uveitis may come on suddenly with redness and pain, or sometimes with a painless blurring of vision. A case of simple “red eye” may in fact be a serious problem of uveitis. If your eye becomes red or painful, and doesn’t clear up quickly you should be examined and treated by an ophthalmologist.

What Causes Uveitis?

Many different types of infections may cause Uveitis, as the immune system responds to fight these infections inside the eye: Brucellosis, Herpes, Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease, Ocular histoplasmosis syndrome, Syphilis, Toxocariasis, Toxoplasmosis, and Tuberculosis. Related disease in other parts of the body, such as arthritis, can also lead to Uveitis. However, in many cases of Uveitis, the cause remains unknown.

How is Uveitis Diagnosed?

A careful eye examination by an ophthalmologist is extremely important when symptoms occur. Inflammation inside the eye can permanently affect sight or even lead to blindness, if it is not treated. Dr. Sparks will examine the inside of your eye. He may order blood tests, skin tests, or x-rays to help determine the diagnosis. Since uveitis can be associated with disease in the rest of the body, it is important to let Dr. Sparks know about your overall health. He may want to consult with your primary care physician or other medical specialists.

Are Treatments Offered for Uveitis?

Yes. With prompt diagnosis and treatment by Dr. Sparks, the prognosis is generally good. When left untreated, serious ocular complications such as cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal edema may occur. Depending on the type of uveitis and its severity, different treatments are necessary. It is typically treated with glucocorticoid steroids as eye drops or oral tablets. Other topical medications may be used depending on the severity of the uveitis.
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