If you are constantly struggling with inflamed eyes, which appear red and swollen, perhaps you are developing a condition called uveitis. The condition can cause mild, moderate to severe pain and may occur for no apparent reason. Luckily, several treatment options can help alleviate the symptoms and restore the lost vision. We have covered more about uveitis below.
What is Uveitis?
Uveitis refers to a group of eye disorders that causes the eyeball’s uvea or the middle layer to swell and become inflamed. This condition can also affect the other parts of the eye, such as the retina and the sclera. Uveitis can develop in one eye or both eyes.
Types of Uveitis
Most healthcare providers classify uveitis based on the eye region where inflammation occurs. The three main types of uveitis are:
- Anterior uveitis. This causes swelling or inflammation in the front part of the eye. The symptoms often appear suddenly and may disappear before repairing again. Anterior uveitis is common in people with chronic eye inflammation that comes and goes away with treatment. Those with active arthritis, autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, or a history of herpes infections may be more susceptible to this type of uveitis.
- Intermediate uveitis. With this type, swelling and inflammation occur in the middle of the eye. The condition is also called vitritis or cyclitis since it affects the vitreous, a fluid-filled space inside the eye. Intermediate uveitis is common in people who have sarcoidosis or multiple sclerosis.
- Posterior. This type causes swelling of the uvea towards the back of the eye. It’s the least common but also the most severe. Posterior uveitis can affect the optic nerve, retina, and choroid.
Causes of Uveitis
The causes of uveitis are not well understood. One in every three uveitis cases is estimated to have no direct or known cause. However, the inflammation associated with the condition may result from eye injury/trauma, eye surgery complications, infections, or underlying diseases.
People who have had chicken pox virus, herpes virus, syphilis, and TB risk developing uveitis later in life. Similarly, most patients diagnosed with uveitis often have underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, or lupus.
Some of the commonly reported symptoms of uveitis include:
- Eye floaters. These are dark or floating shapes within the field of vision.
- Blurred vision.
- Eye pain/pressure that causes redness in the eyes.
- Light sensitivity.
- Vision loss.
Most of these symptoms may come on gradually or suddenly, so it’s important to watch them keenly and seek medical intervention as soon as possible. Your doctor will conduct a thorough diagnosis to check for any underlying conditions or infections before customizing a treatment plan.
Uveitis Treatment Options
If left untreated, uveitis can lead to advanced eye complications such as glaucoma, cataracts, retinal edema, and even permanent vision loss. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recognizes several medications for treating uveitis, the most common being corticosteroid drops that reduce inflammation. These eye drops also help reduce pain and swelling.
Most medications used for uveitis treatment help restore the lost vision. If your optometrist thinks that an underlying autoimmune disorder is causing uveitis, they may refer you to a rheumatologist for specialized treatment. That said, the right treatment plan will often depend on the type of uveitis you’ve been diagnosed with. Below are the standard treatment options.
Antibiotics, Antifungals, or Antivirals
These are prescription medications used to treat uveitis caused by infections. Using these drugs for non-infectious uveitis wouldn’t improve your eye condition. They are commonly used to treat intermediate and posterior uveitis.
Eyed drops help widen or dilate the pupil, reducing pain, inflammation, and swelling. They can also help keep the lens and iris from sticking together, common with anterior uveitis. If you have excess eye pressure, your doctor may also prescribe eye drops.
These are medications containing steroids/corticosteroids that help alleviate eye inflammation. They are available as ointments, drops, oral pills, injections, implants, or intravenous infusions. If you have chronic non-infectious uveitis, the doctor may recommend an implant or injection, such as YUTIQ, which delivers sustained treatment for up to 36 months.
The doctor may prescribe immunosuppressants for uveitis cases that don’t respond well to steroids, affect both eyes, or threaten your vision. These drugs calm the body’s immune response to system-wide inflammation or autoimmune diseases. Immunosuppressants can be taken orally as a pill, an injection, or an IV infusion. They are commonly used to treat posterior and intermediate uveitis.
The Bottom Line
Besides the options above, your doctor may also use other medications depending on the severity of the condition. For instance, biologics or immunomodulatory therapy can be used to calm the body’s immune response without adverse side effects. Close monitoring of your uveitis condition and seeking prompt treatment can also help reduce the risks of complications. Remember to always consult your doctor before using any uveitis medication.