UVEITIS

Uveitis means inflammation inside the eye. It affects the part of the eye called the uvea which consists of the iris, ciliary body and choroid.

Uveitis can cause serious problems and vision loss but with prompt treatment it can be controlled in most people.

TYPES OF UVEITIS

Squints may occur in families and may arise in the first few months of life. However, they may also appear in older children. Some children have a weak ability to use the eyes together, and a squint can develop. If a squint is present, the misalignment means that the eyes will lose the ability to work together and achieve 3-D vision (binocular vision).

Children may be farsighted and have a focusing problem, in which case the effort of focusing to see clearly may lead to a squint. Glasses alone may correct this problem.

Very occasionally a child may develop a squint because there is a problem with the eye and it has defective sight. The earlier this is detected the sooner treatment can be started.

If a child squints with one eye, then the vision in that eye will become lazy (amblyopic) as the brain ignores information from the squinting eye.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF A SQUINT?

There are different types of uveitis depending on which parts of the eye are involved with inflammation.

Anterior uveitis

• Affects the front of the eye, including the iris (sometimes called iritis)
• Most common symptoms are redness, eye ache, sensitivity to lights and blurred vision.

Intermediate uveitis

• Affects the middle of the eye, mainly the vitreous jelly
• Most common symptoms are blurred vision and floaters.

Posterior uveitis

• Affects the back of the eye, mainly the choroid layer and retina
• Most common symptoms are blur and floaters

Panuveitis

• Affects the front and back of the eye

WHO GETS IT?

It is unknown why most people get uveitis and it can develop in people who are completely healthy.

However, there is a greater risk of uveitis in people with other inflammatory or autoimmune problems such as TB, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory arthritis and psoriasis.

A common cause is HLA B27- related uveitis. HLA-B27 is a gene that some people are born with that can predispose them to developing uveitis later in life.

In some cases uveitis is caused by an infection. Your ophthalmologist may request investigations to check for an underlying cause.

SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS

Symptoms depend on the type of uveitis present (whether it mainly affects the front or the back of the eye). The most common symptoms are redness, light sensitivity, eye ache and blur. It usually affects one eye, but in some people both eyes will be involved.

TREATMENT

There is no known cure for uveitis, but in most cases it can be treated very effectively with a course of steroid eye drops over four to six weeks.

Cases of intermediate or panuveitis usually require additional treatment as eye drops cannot penetrate well into the back of the eye.

Depending on the severity of the disease, your doctor may recommend oral steroid therapy or steroid injections around the eye. In very rare cases other immunosuppressant medications are required.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

The most common type of uveitis, anterior uveitis (affecting the front of the eye), typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks.

Some cases of uveitis are chronic and can last for months or years, but this is much less common.

Those with intermediate uveitis and panuveitis are more likely to have a chronic course.

Uveitis can return at any stage and it is very important to see your ophthalmologist promptly if you notice any symptoms returning.