An elder man receives a slit lamp eye exam
An elder man receives a slit lamp eye exam
An elder man receives a slit lamp eye exam

Uveitis

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Uveitis is a type of eye inflammation that affects the middle layer of eye tissue known as the uvea, resulting in inflammation inside the eye. There are four categories of uveitis: anterior, intermediate, posterior and panuveitis. Uveitis expert Jennifer E. Thorne, M.D., Ph.D., of the Wilmer Eye Institute, outlines the key aspects of each type as well as the symptoms and treatments to know.

Types of Uveitis

Types of uveitis are distinguished by where the inflammation in the eye primarily occurs.

Anterior uveitis

Also called iritis or iridocyclitis, anterior uveitis is the most common form of uveitis. It is characterized by inflammation of the front of the eye, between the back of the cornea and in front of the lens. Anterior uveitis can be present in one or both eyes. Symptoms of this form of uveitis may include eye pain, red eyes, blurred vision and sensitivity to light.

Intermediate uveitis

Also called cyclitis or vitritis, intermediate uveitis is an intraocular inflammation primarily affecting the vitreous, which is the gel in the middle of the eye and behind the lens. Symptoms of intermediate uveitis may include blurred vision and spots in vision (commonly called floaters).

Posterior uveitis

Also known as retinitis or choroiditis, posterior uveitis is the inflammation of the back of the eye. This primarily affects the retina, which includes the retinal vessels, or the choroid. Posterior uveitis is known to cause vision loss and may include symptoms of flashing lights or floaters.

Panuveitis

Panuveitis involves inflammation inside the eye that similarly affects the front, middle and back of the eye. It may be associated with any of the symptoms described in the other types of uveitis.

Uveitis Diagnosis

A thorough eye exam is needed to diagnose uveitis. Blood tests and X-rays may be used to determine whether another underlying systemic disorder is causing the condition.

Eye exams include:

  • Slit-lamp exam of the structures in the front of the eyes
  • Tonometry, a test that measures the pressure inside the eye
  • Dilated eye exam, during which the retina and optic nerves are examined using a device called ophthalmoscope for signs of inflammation

Uveitis Treatment

Treatment of uveitis sets out to suppress the inflammation and to reduce the side effects that occur from inflammation. These side effects include pain, structural ocular complications, and vision loss. Treatment might also aim to treat an underlying systemic condition causing uveitis.

Treatment options for anterior uveitis typically include:

  • Eye drops or ointments that reduce inflammation (e.g. steroids)
  • Eye drops that widen pupil
  • Eye drops that lower eye pressure
  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications, if caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection

Treatment options for intermediate uveitis, posterior uveitis and panuveitis include:

  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications, if caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection
  • Steroids by injection, pill or intravenous route
  • Steroid by implant that releases drug into the eye over time
Medications that suppress the immune system (e.g., immunosuppressive drug therapy), which may include conventional immunosuppression or biological therapies
a patient consults with her eye doctor in office

Treatment Ocular Immunology at the Wilmer Eye Institute

The division of ocular immunology at the Wilmer Eye Institute provides evaluation and management of immunologically mediated ocular diseases, such as uveitis, intraocular inflammation, scleritis and iritis.

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