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What Is Uveitis?

Uveitis is a term that covers several types of inflammatory conditions that can cause swelling in the uvea, the middle layer of the eyeball. However, uveitis can also affect other parts of the eye, and is not always caused by an eye disorder, but by a medical condition elsewhere in the body.

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Uveitis can cause damage to the eye tissue, and can ultimately lead to permanent loss of vision. If you experience any redness, pain or swelling in your eye, talk to an eye doctor as soon as possible to be assessed and to begin treatment, if necessary. There are three types of uveitis, with each named after the part of the uvea it affects:

•acute anterior uveitis

occurs near the front of the eye. It can start suddenly, then stop altogether or become recurrent.

•intermediate uveitis

is swelling in the middle of the eyeball. This form can be characterised by its cycle of repeatedly flaring up, then improving

•posterior uveitis

happens toward the back of the eye. It can be slow to develop, but can last for several years.

Uveitis can be a reaction to the threat of infection occurring within the eye, or somewhere else in the body. When the immune system detects a possible infection, it sends white blood cells to the site to help fight it, which causes inflammation (swelling). Because of the high concentration of blood vessels in this part of the eye, this immune response can also cause redness or a feeling of warmth. Patients experiencing uveitis may also have blurred vision, floaters, or sensitivity to light.

The type and extent of the symptoms can vary by what sort of infection is at work, and where in the uvea the swelling is happening

•acute anterior uveitis

can affect one or both eyes with symptoms including eye pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, the appearance of a small pupil, and redness.

•intermediate uveitis

can cause blurred vision and floaters, but eye pain is unusual

•posterior uveitis

is only detected during an eye examination, because of its location at the back of the eye

•pan-uveitis

describes the condition of having the condition in all three sections of the uvea.

Uveitis detection and treatment

An ophthalmologist will perform a thorough eye exam, perhaps including lab tests, to see if there’s an infection present or whether you may have something called an autoimmune disorder , which is when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. The doctor may also wish to make an assessment of your central nervous system to see if the uveitis could possibly be linked to another health issue you may be having.

The goal of treatment is first to relieve or reduce inflammation and pain. The second objective is then to prevent any further damage to eye tissue and to focus on restoring lost vision, if you’ve been affected to that extent. Prescription eye drops or tablets that contain steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a common treatment for uveitis. For more severe cases, this medication can also be found in the form of a capsule that is surgically implanted in the eye.

If you think you have any of the symptoms that could indicate uveitis – pain, blurred vision, floaters, redness or heat — you should see an eye doctor as soon as possible.

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