Ocular Inflammation (Uveitis)
- Prof Chee Soon Phaik (Visiting Consultant)
- Dr. Lennard Thean
The eye is a fluid-filled ball consisting of three layers. The middle layer of the eye includes the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid and is called the uvea. The uvea plays an important role in the normal functioning of the eye:
1. It contains many blood vessels thereby providing the eye with oxygen and nutrients.
2. The iris acts as shutters, controlling the amount of light entering the eye.
3. It contains muscles that help the eye to focus.
Uveitis is the inflammation of any part of the uvea.
Symptoms of Uveitis include:
- Light sensitivity
- Blurring of vision
- Redness of the eye
These may be caused by bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic infections. Immune-related diseases can also affect other parts of the body such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and Reiter's disease. Uveitis may also by triggered by severe injury to the other eye and in some cases, the cause is unknown.
Your eye doctor may diagnose you with anterior, intermediate or posterior uveitis depending on the site of disease. Anterior uveitis affects the iris or ciliary body, Intermediate uveitis affects the middle part of the eye while Posterior uveitis usually implies that the retina or choroid is inflamed.
Tests that may be ordered include: blood tests, mantoux tests (to check if you have tuberculosis) and X-rays (e.g. Chest X-ray, Spine X-ray). It is very important to come to the correct diagnosis so as to plan the best treatment for you.
Treatment is aimed at the following:
- To treat the underlying cause of disease
- To relieve pain and discomfort
- To prevent loss of sight from the disease and its complications such as glaucoma, macular oedema and scarring of the retina.
Steroids are the mainstay medication and may be given as eyedrops or sometimes as tablets especially in severe cases, to reduce inflammation. Other medications may be prescribed as adjuncts to steroids. Pupil dilating drops may be used to reduce pain but can result in temporary blurring of vision.
The outcome varies considerably depending on the type of uveitis. With treatment, the disease can be controlled and vision can be preserved. If complications such as glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye), cataracts and growth of abnormal new vessels occur, they will require treatment too. Uveitis can recur, hence allowing similar symptoms occur. One should visit an ophthalmologist to seek treatment.