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Inflammation inside the eye is a medical emergency. Uveitis is estimated to be responsible for approximately 10% of
the blindness in the United States. Uveitis requires
an urgent and thorough examination by an ophthalmologist,
along with urgent treatment to control the inflammation.
Anatomy of Uveitis
Inflammation in any of the parts of the uveal tract is called
uveitis. The uvea tract (the areas
marked in red above) is the middle layer of the eye, made up of
body, and the choroid, which covers the eye like a
tunic or coat. In common usage, uveitis may refer to any inflammatory
process involving the interior of the eye.
Iris: The visible part of the uvea, in the
front, is the iris. It is the colored ring of tissue suspended
behind the cornea and immediately in front of the lens.
Ciliary body: The structure behind the iris responsible
for making aqueous humor, the fluid in the front chamber of the
eye that nourishes the lens and cornea.
Choroid (KOR-oyd): The choroid is a soft, thin, brown,
extremely vascular middle layer of tissue that lies between the
retina and sclera. It is composed of layers of blood vessels that
nourish the back of the eye.
Types of Uveitis.
Uveitis is usually categorized into anterior, intermediate,
posterior and panuveitic forms.
- Anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of uveitis cases are anterior
in location (anterior uveitis), frequently termed iritis -
or inflammation of the iris and anterior chamber. This condition
can occur as a single episode and subside with proper treatment
or may take on a recurrent or chronic nature. Symptoms include
red eye, injected conjunctiva, pain and decreased vision.
- Intermediate uveitis consists of vitritis - inflammatory
cells in the vitreous cavity, sometimes with snowbanking, or deposition
of inflammatory material on the pars plana.
- Posterior uveitis
is the inflammation of the retina and choroid.
- Pan-uveitis is
the inflammation of all the layers of the uvea.
Causes of Uveitis.
A myriad of conditions can lead to the development of uveitis,
including systemic diseases as well as syndromes confined to the
eye. Causes of uveitis can be
infectious or noninfectious, traumatic, drug-induced, or malignant.
Uveitis occurs throughout
the world. Both women and men of any race, ethnicity, or age may
Symptoms of Uveitis.
Uveitis can affect any part of the eye or its surrounding structures.
The symptoms of uveitis for the most part depend on the area in the
eye of the inflammation. Most common signs and symptoms of uveitis
- Redness of the eye
- Blurred or decreased vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Dark, floating spots along the visual field
Eye pain, severe light sensitivity, and any change in vision are considered emergency signs and need immediate attention by an ophthalmologist.
Treatment of Uveitis.
The prognosis is generally good for those who receive prompt diagnosis
and treatment, but serious complication (including cataracts, glaucoma,
band keratopathy, retinal edema and permanent vision loss) may
result if left untreated. The type of uveitis, as well as its severity,
duration, and responsiveness to treatment or any associated illnesses,
all factor in to the outlook.
Usually, when eye inflammation is suspected, your urgent duty
is to contact your ophthalmologist. He or she will perform a thorough
eye exam, including:
- Tests of visual acuity, to determine if vision has decreased.
This can be as simple as reading an eye chart.
- A funduscopic exam, in which the pupil is dilated (widened) so
that the ophthalmologist can look into the eye and see structures
in the back of the eye.
- Measures of the pressure inside the eye to make sure it has
not reached levels that might be dangerous. This painless test
can be done on the slit lamp by a tonometer or without a slit
lamp with a tonopen or a pneumotonometer. These measure the pressure
inside the eye by lightly pressing on the surface of the eye.
- A slit lamp exam, in which a narrow beam of light is shone into
the eye so that a magnifying lens can closely examine the highlighted
portion of the eye.
- Your doctor will use eye drops to dilate the pupil of the eye.
A drop of fluorescein dye may also be placed in the eye. This dye
temporarily stains the surface of the eye and can help to determine
which layers of the eye are inflamed
- In addition, your physician will ask you about your
medical history, and will examine you. Depending on the results,
he or she may order further tests or refer you to an ocular
specialist. Because uveitis often is associated with a viral
infection or an autoimmune disease, other conditions need to
be discovered and treated as well.
Uveitis in the front and middle part of the eye (iritis or cyclitis)
is commonly more sudden in onset, generally lasting six to eight
weeks, and in the early stages can usually be controlled by the
frequent use of drops. Often, this type of uveitis cannot be given
a specific cause. Uveitis in the back part of the eye (choroiditis) is commonly
slower in onset and may last longer, and is often more difficult
The eye specialists of East Valley Ophthalmology perform advanced
technology diagnostic testing and treatment, as well as taking
the time necessary to provide each patient with information needed
to fully understand their condition and to achieve their best possible
If you would like further information, please call our office at:
East Valley Ophthalmology
Eye Doctors - Mesa, Arizona
If you or a family member
or friend have not had a recent routine eye examination, have a specific eye condition that needs addressing, or are looking for
an eye specialist or professional eye consultant please take a moment to Request an Appointment.