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What is Uveitis? by Dhanu Meleth, M.D.

July 10, 2020

Dr. Dhanu Meleth is an ophthalmologist with the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in retina and uveitis.

Uveitis is group of diseases that have in common some degree of inflammation in the uvea, the pigmented tissue in the eye. The uvea itself includes the iris, located in the front of the eye; the ciliary body, located behind the iris; and the choroid, a layer of blood vessels. Uveitis can occur in any one of the aforementioned parts of the uvea or all of them. Therefore, when one is concerned about uveitis, it is important to have all layers of the uvea examined.

Who is Most at Risk?

This condition can be found in individuals of all ages, even children. There are multiple causes of uveitis:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Infection, such as herpes simplex, shingles, tuberculosis, or syphilis
  • Autoimmune systematic inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Rare forms of cancer, such as lymphoma

Symptoms

The symptoms of this condition include redness, pain, and blurred vision. Light sensitivity and the presence of floaters are also common side effects of uveitis. Symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually.

If left untreated, uveitis could result in retinal swelling or scarring, or retinal detachment. In severe cases, permanent vision loss could occur. Those diagnosed with uveitis are also at increased risk of other ocular problems, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

Types of Uveitis

There are four main types of uveitis, characterized by the location of the eye which they affect. The names of each as well as the layers of the uvea in which they are found are as follows:

  • Anterior uveitis is characterized by inflammation between the cornea and the iris, which are both located at the front of the eye. It is the most common form of uveitis.
  • Intermediate uveitis affects the retina, blood vessels, and vitreous of the eye.
  • Posterior uveitis affects the retina and/or choroid, placing this form of inflammation inside the back of the eye. It is common, unfortunately, for inflammation inside the back of the eye to recover at a slower pace than at the front of the eye.
  • Panuveitis is inflammation in all layers of the uvea, front and back.

Treating Uveitis

The best method to treat uveitis is to treat the condition causing the inflammation. Treatment could be required for a few months or a few years. Treatments may involve local therapies — such as eye drops, injections, or surgical implants — or systemic medications.

Possible treatment options include:

  • Inflammation-reducing drugs.
  • Spasm- and pain-reducing drugs to treat the symptoms of uveitis, such as redness and discomfort.
  • Antiviral or bacterial drugs to treat infections that may be causing inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid-releasing eye implants that release corticosteroid directly into the eye. These implants last for 2 to 3 years. Corticosteroids, which include cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone, imitate hormones found naturally in the body. When they are prescribed at a level that exceeds the natural abundance of the hormone in the body, inflammation can be reduced.

In severe cases, drugs that modify the activity of the immune system may be required.

Untreated uveitis can result in severe visual impairment. However, there are multiple methods of treatment available to help manage the condition. If you are contemplating the best course of action to treat your uveitis, please act now and see your ophthalmologist for professional advice.

More About Uveitis Specialist Dhanu Meleth, M.D.

Known as Dhanu among his family and friends, Annal Dhananjayan Meleth was born in Kerala, India, but he admits with a chuckle it is difficult to answer the question of where he is from. This world traveler has lived in 26 different places. But most of his life was spent in India, England, Canada, and now the U.S. Dr. Meleth’s education and medical training have taken him on a meandering journey reaching from Québec, Canada, to Alabama, Washington, D.C., Texas, Australia, and now Atlanta, where his family resides. He spends some time every year teaching courses about medical and surgical management of diabetic retinopathy and provides charitable care for patients with advanced diabetic complications in various parts of the world. Read his full bio here. 

References and Additional Resources

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals, and optometry students. 

Uveitis

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uveitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20378734

Uveitis Causes

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/uveitis-causes

Prednisone and other corticosteroids

https://www.mayoclinic.org/steroids/art-20045692

Uveitis symptoms

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/uveitis-symptoms

Retinal detachment

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/retinal-detachment/symptoms-causes/syc-20351344

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