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About Uveitis

In this section, you or a loved one can find out more about medical treatments, research studies and practical information about uveitis. Read on to find answers to some of your questions as well as links to other information. Being informed is an important first step towards becoming an active decision-maker in your care plan.

What Is Uveitis?

Uveitis is caused by inflammation of the eye. Inflammation is the body’s way of responding to tissue damage, germs or toxins.

In uveitis, the inflammation can occur in many important structures of the eye, including but not limited to, the choroid, the retina, the vitreous, the ciliary body and the iris.

Uveitis is not one disease. It is a group of conditions all characterised by irritation, swelling and damage to the different tissues of the eye. Early diagnosis and treatment of uveitis are important. Uveitis can be serious and may lead to permanent vision loss.

The type of uveitis depends on the location of the inflammation in the eye.

  • Anterior uveitis (also called iritis): the most common type of uveitis, it occurs in front of the eye (the iris and the ciliary body)
  • Posterior uveitis: occurs in the back of the eye (the choroid and retina)
  • Intermediate uveitis: affects a clear gel within the eye called the vitreous humour
  • Panuveitis: uveitis of multiple parts of the eye.
What Causes Uveitis?

Possible causes of uveitis include:

  • Eye injury (for example due to getting a chemical in the eye)
  • Eye surgery
  • Autoimmune disorder (for example, sarcoidosis, ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter's syndrome, multiple sclerosis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease)
  • Inflammatory disorder
  • Infections (for example, cat-scratch disease, herpes zoster, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease and West Nile virus)
  • Cancer affecting the eye, such as lymphoma
  • Certain drugs, such as rifabutin (a type of antibiotic)
What Are the Effects of Uveitis?

The effects of uveitis can be different in different people. Some people, particularly children and young adults, may not experience any symptoms at all. Other people may experience severe symptoms. A patient’s experience with uveitis may be affected by the cause, location and duration of the disease, as well as the patient's overall state of health.

Which body parts are affected?

The signs and symptoms of uveitis may occur suddenly and quickly worsen, or they may develop gradually. The signs and symptoms may affect one or both eyes.

Common signs and symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Aching eye pain
  • Redness in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tearing
  • Blurry, hazy vision
  • Moving dark spots called “floaters”
  • Flashing lights
  • Narrowing of the pupil

Without treatment, uveitis may cause complications, including:

  • Macular oedema
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Optic nerve damage
  • Retinal detachment
  • Permanent vision loss

Uveitis can also be associated with many conditions, such as:

  • AIDS
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Behcet’s syndrome
  • CMV retinitis
  • Herpes zoster infection
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Syphilis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Vogt Koyanagi Harada’s disease
Lifestyle Options

For most people, regardless of having an eye disease or not, taking care of your eyes, exercising, healthy eating and good sleeping habits are recommended. A healthy lifestyle can lead to an enhanced quality of life for most people. Talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.

Tips for eye health:

  • When watching TV, sit at a distance from the screen of at least 5 times the width of your TV screen.
  • Eat eye healthy foods, such as those containing Vitamin C (papayas, red bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries and oranges) or antioxidants such as lutein and beta-carotene (carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, kale and broccoli).
  • When using a computer for work or play, follow the 20/20/20 rule: take a 20 second break from your computer screen every 20 minutes; when taking the break focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet (6 metres) away.
  • Wear proper protective eyewear when doing any indoor or outdoor work that could affect your eyes; wear sunglasses outside even if the sun is not shining. Keep in mind that UV rays are harmful to your eyes all year round.
  • See your optometrist, family physician or eye specialist (ophthalmologist) if you experience eye irritation from allergies, inflammation, infection or injury.

Like most parts of our body, our eyes need good blood circulation and oxygen, which are both stimulated by regular exercise. Regular exercise also helps us maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of diabetes and diabetes-related eye disease.

Make sure that you discuss any plans for new activities with your doctor. If you experience shortness of breath or severe pain while exercising, make sure that you seek medical attention.

Complementary Therapy Options

For some people with uveitis, complementary and alternative therapies may help. Complementary and alternative therapies are treatments that fall outside the scope of traditional western medicine. Ask your health care professional about alternative therapies.

Uveitis needs medical treatment prescribed and monitored by a doctor. Relying on complementary and alternative therapies alone to treat uveitis is not advised.

Make sure that you let your doctor know about any herbs or supplements you use or plan to use.

Medical Treatments

The goals when treating uveitis are to prevent vision loss, to provide pain relief, and to reduce or prevent new and harmful changes in the eye. Specialists (ophthalmologist or rheumatologist) work with patients to find the best possible treatment options for that particular patient. The decision of whether or not to treat uveitis and how to do so is made in consideration of the following factors:

  • Eye structures affected by uveitis
  • Whether or not the uveitis may be reversible
  • Extent to which vision is affected
  • If one or both eyes are affected
  • Patient age and overall health

How uveitis medications are administered:

  • Drops
  • Pills
  • Injections (into the eye)
  • Subcutaneous injection

The most commonly used medications to treat uveitis are: cycloplegic  medications, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. There are also other medications, such as antibiotics and antiviral medications, which are only used for specific causes of uveitis.

You may need to visit your doctor for follow-up appointments and blood tests every 1 to 3 months.

Supplements that a patient can take

These supplements may help your eyes stay healthy:

  •  A daily multivitamin containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B vitamins, and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium
  •  Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, may help reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.
  •   Lutein is an antioxidant important for eye health.

 

At times, uveitis treatment may also require antibiotic or antiviral medications if the uveitis is caused by an infection. It is important to take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by your doctor since taking antibiotics improperly or irregularly can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Surgery is only considered when there is physical damage to structures within the eye that cannot be corrected with other therapy options. Although eye surgery can be risky, advancements in technology have made it easier and safer to operate in various parts of the eye.
Disclaimer

Please note that the information on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking medical advice or treatment from a healthcare professional. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a medical condition or health problem. Speak to a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your health, medical condition, symptoms or treatment options.

References

http://www.rnib.org.uk/

Royal National Institute of Blind People; UK Charity

www.aao.org

American Academy of Ophthalmology

The mission of the American Academy of Ophthalmology is to protect sight and empower lives by serving as an advocate for patients and the public, leading ophthalmic education, and advancing the profession of ophthalmology.

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