Eye Infections

Uveitis (Inner Eye Infection)

What is uveitis?

Uveitis is inflammation that occurs within the interior of the eye, just as arthritis occurs as inflammation within our joints. This can result in damage within the eye if the inflammation is severe or untreated. There are many different types and causes of uveitis. The type depends on the part of the eye affected. For example, if the iris is inflamed, this is called iritis. If the retina is inflamed, this is called retinitis.

How would I know if I had uveitis?
Symptoms of uveitis vary, but can include sensitivity to bright lights, blurred or decreased vision, floating black dots, or pain and redness of the eye. It can occur in one or both eyes. Episodes of inflammation can recur over time, although some patients only have one episode during their lives. A careful exam by your ophthalmologist is important for diagnosis because untreated inflammation can permanently affect sight.

Why do people get uveitis?
In most cases, the cause of uveitis remains unknown. In some cases medical conditions may be associated with uveitis, including diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or sarcoid. Infections including bacteria (such as syphilis), viruses (such as chicken pox or shingles), fungus (such as histoplasmosis), or other organisms such toxoplasmosis can also cause uveitis. Past ocular trauma may result in uveitis in the traumatized or unaffected eye. Your doctor will discuss any medical evaluation appropriate for your individual case. This may include blood tests or x-rays, or an evaluation of your overall health by your primary doctor or another specialist.

How is uveitis treated?
Treatment depends on the cause, as well as the type and severity of inflammation present. If the uveitis is caused by an infection, antibiotics can be used to treat it. Typically, uveitis can be controlled with medications that decrease inflammation such as corticosteroids. These drugs are often administered as eye drops, although sometimes oral medication may be indicated. Some cases may require a simple in-office procedure in which an injection of corticosteroid is placed either against the eye wall or inside the eye. In the most severe cases, other more potent oral medications may be required to control the inflammation. The vast majority of cases of uveitis can be successfully controlled with the above treatments. Usually, the improvement will be quite rapid, but uveitis can take time to reach maximum improvement and can progress into a chronic or relapsing condition. With proper treatment the prognosis for vision is usually quite good, but eyes with uveitis must be monitored periodically to avoid complications that can potentially cause permanent damage to the vision.