Bright Sight

Oliver Backhouse, Consultant Eye Surgeon

Uveitis in General

The pigmented layer of the eye (made up of the Iris / Choroid) is called the Uvea and when this is inflamed (Itis = Inflammation) it is called Uveitis. When the inflammation only affects the Iris it is called Iritis - see separate information sheet. Uveitis can affect patients of all ages but most will be aged 25-45.

Because there is inflammation inside the eye, symptoms and signs such as discomfort, redness, watering, blurred vision, light sensitivity and floaters can occur. Many of these symptoms are seen in other eye conditions as well so it is important that your eye is examined under magnification (slit-lamp) by an Ophthalmologist.

There are over 50 different types of uveitis and despite thorough investigations it is not uncommon to find no obvious cause. It is likely that some form of infection sets off the immune system. Part of this response then 'reacts' with other parts of the body such as the eye or joints (flu can give joint aches). Sometimes the inflammation in the eye can be potentially dangerous to the vision and so medication is required to reduce the risk of damage.

Some cases of Uveitis go as quickly as they come but there are other forms that will run a chronic course and so the need for medication may be prolonged, sometimes even for several years. Control of the inflammation is usually obtained by taking steroid medication (see separate Steroid Information sheet) in eye drop, slow release injection and tablet form, but if too high a dose of Steroid is required for too long a period then the use of 'steroid sparing' medication will be discussed. In order to help find out what type of Uveitis a patient is suffering from some blood tests, chest X-ray or CT scan may be required.

Uveitis is usually well controlled although there may be grumbling 'low-grade' persistent inflammation in the eye that just needs regular review. In all cases there will be periods when the uveitis gets worse and so the medication will need to be increased to gain control of the situation again. Uveitis is not contagious unless it is due to an infection such as Tuberculosis. Very rarely does Uveitis run in families and this reflects the genetic predisposition of an individual when exposed to an infection.

Increasingly there are more complex therapies for Uveitis and cases previously being looked after by a general Ophthalmologist are now referred earlier to someone specialising in Uveitis.