Your eye is red, and you think it might be uveitis? Uveitis is an inflammation of the eye that is not common. However, it can lead to complications, including vision loss, if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatments of uveitis.

What is uveitis?

Uveitis is an inflammation inside the eye that affects one or more parts of the uvea. The uvea comprises 3 parts: the iris, ciliary body and choroid. The iris is the part of the eye that gives colour to your eyes. The ciliary body is located at the back of the iris; it maintains the lens and produces the aqueous humour. The choroid, which ensures the blood flow to the eye, is located at the back of the retina.

Uveitis can affect people of any age. However, it is most common in people between 20 and 60. This type of inflammation, which causes red eyes, is not very common, but if not treated properly, it can lead to vision loss. Treatment and follow-up are necessary. These will be adapted according to the type and seriousness of the inflammation.

Inflammation can also form acute uveitis that lasts several weeks or months. It can also be chronic uveitis that can last for years; sometimes, it never fully heals.

Several types of uveitis can be detected during an eye exam:

  • Anterior uveitis: Inflammation of the iris or ciliary body
  • Intermediate uveitis: This affects the vitreous humour or the gelatinous substance
  • Posterior uveitis: Inflammation of the choroid or retina
  • Diffuse uveitis: This affects both the anterior and posterior parts of the eye

Note that the healing time for uveitis varies depending on the type of uveitis—and it can differ from one individual to another.

What causes uveitis?

There can be many causes of uveitis, and in some cases, the exact origin of the inflammation is never found. There are both infectious and non-infectious causes.

Infectious causes of uveitis

An eye infection can be caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites such as toxoplasmosis.

Non-infectious causes of uveitis

Uveitis and autoimmune diseases: Because the immune system is compromised due to an autoimmune disease, it can attack the body and the eyes.

Uveitis and ankylosing spondylitis: Inflammation of the eye can be related to diseases, such as ankylosing spondylitis, Behçet's disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, among others.

Uveitis and trauma: Blows, surgeries or any other kind of trauma to the eye can cause inflammation.

Uveitis and stress: Stress does not cause inflammation per se, but when a person has a chronic inflammatory disease, stress can worsen it.

Uveitis and fatigue: Fatigue is not the cause of uveitis either, but when the body is tired, it is much more difficult to defend itself against inflammation.

What are the symptoms of uveitis?

There are multiple symptoms of uveitis; they depend on the type of inflammation that affects your eye. You should also be aware that some individuals are asymptomatic, especially young people. In addition, symptoms vary from person to person and can change from day to day.

Here are the most common symptoms of uveitis:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Visual disorders
  • Decreased vision
  • Photophobia
  • The appearance of floating bodies (spots)

Without proper treatment, symptoms can worsen and lead to ocular complications, including:

  • Permanent blindness
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal detachment
  • A lesion of the optic nerve

What are the treatment options for uveitis?

The treatment of uveitis differs depending on the inflammation's characteristics (type and severity). The medications prescribed are usually:

  • Mydriatic eye drops
  • Corticosteroids
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

In addition to these medications, you may be recommended to take:

  • Immunosuppressive drugs, if the treatment is not sufficient or if it causes troublesome side effects
  • Antibiotics, if the inflammation is of bacterial or viral origin

If you are experiencing redness in your eye and have any doubts, do the right thing: make an appointment for an eye exam.