The uvea is a region of your eye that's located just behind your iris, and it's full of blood vessels that supply your eye with nutrients. When your uvea becomes inflamed, you have a condition called uveitis. It's caused by your immune system becoming hyperactive, resulting in extremely high levels of inflammation in your uvea. Uveitis needs to be treated quickly — the severe inflammation can cause damage to healthy tissues in your eye, and may even lead to permanent blindness. To learn about the signs of uveitis and how an ophthalmologist can treat it, read on.
What Are the Symptoms of Uveitis?
The symptoms of uveitis depend on which portion of your uvea is inflamed. When the front portion of your uvea is inflamed, uveitis often causes severe eye redness. Since the uvea is located slightly behind the whites of your eyes, the severe inflammation will be visible. This form of uveitis also typically causes pain and increased light sensitivity.
If the inflammation is located towards the back of your uvea, it's often not visible on the whites of your eyes. When the back of your uvea is inflamed, uveitis often causes your vision to become blurry. It also may cause you to see spots in your vision, which are called eye floaters.
What Causes Uveitis?
Since the root cause of uveitis is a hyperactive immune system and the inflammation in your uvea that results from it, you're more likely to develop uveitis when your immune system is very active. If you have an autoimmune condition like sarcoidosis or multiple sclerosis, for example, your active immune system makes uveitis more likely to occur. Uveitis can also occur when your body is trying to fight off an infection such as tuberculosis. However, even people without an autoimmune condition or a recent history of infection can develop uveitis — this condition is known as idiopathic uveitis.
How Does an Ophthalmologist Treat Uveitis?
Ophthalmologists have access to a variety of treatments that can eliminate uveitis. If the uveitis-related inflammation is located in the front part of the uvea, your ophthalmologist will likely prescribe you steroid eye drops. These eye drops will weaken the immune system in your uvea, stopping its hyperactivity and the inflammation that comes with it.
If the inflammation is located in the back part of your uvea, then eye drops won't be able to reach it. Instead, your ophthalmologist can prescribe oral steroids for you. These weaken your entire body's immune system, which helps to reduce inflammation in your uvea. While taking oral steroids and weakening your immune system makes you more vulnerable to infection, it's typically worth it in order to treat uveitis and prevent it from causing severe damage to your eye.
After your uveitis goes away and you finish your course of treatment, you'll be monitored to see if the uveitis comes back. Some people develop chronic uveitis, which means that they'll need to continue taking medication to prevent another bout of uveitis.
If you have any of the symptoms of uveitis, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmology clinic in your area as soon as possible. Uveitis can lead to blindness if it's not treated since the severe inflammation can spread and damage healthy tissue near your uvea. Starting treatment early minimizes the damage that uveitis can cause to your eye, helping to preserve your vision and your overall eye health.