What is uveitis?
Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea, the membrane that envelops the interior of the eyeball.
The uvea is highly sensitive to infectious and inflammatory processes as its tissue contains the greatest number of blood vessels in the human body.
Uveitis is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. Infection of the uvea causes severe vision loss due to its contact with delicate eye structures such as the retina.
The uvea is located inside the eyeball and consists of two parts: the anterior uvea (iris and ciliary body), in contact with the crystalline lens and the structures of the anterior chamber, and the posterior uvea (choroid), in direct contact with the retina.
What causes it?
Various factors can cause uveitis:
- Infectious diseases such as toxoplasmosis (a disorder caused by a parasite that produces calcifications in the organism and scarring of the retina) can lead to the most common cause of uveitis: infectious chorioretinitis. This process causes a gradual destruction of the retina and, if it affects the macula (the central part of the retina), can cause significant and irreversible loss of vision
- Bone and rheumatic diseases that are inflammatory and non-degenerative in origin, mainly affecting young people
- Autoimmune diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or environmental factors such as sarcoidosis or Behçet’s disease, a disorder of unknown origin that causes sores and skin lesions
- Trauma or a specific genetic code associated with the disease
Uveitis is less common in the first 10 years of life and its frequency decreases from the age of 60. Most sufferers are aged between 20 and 50.
How can it be prevented?
Uveitis is one of the eye diseases that are most commonly related to other diseases of the human body.
The study and treatment of diseases that cause uveitis is usually carried out in conjunction with an internal medicine specialist. In some cases, the treatment of these diseases or infections can help to prevent it.
The symptoms of uveitis vary depending on the area of the uvea that is affected.
- If the anterior part is affected, symptoms include increased sensitivity to light (photophobia), redness in the eye, blurred vision or eye pain
- If the posterior part is affected, symptoms include vision loss, but probably no pain
Uveitis cannot be diagnosed until external signs appear. When the first symptoms appear, it is important to see the ophthalmologist immediately.
It is common for uveitis to be associated with bone or rheumatic diseases that are inflammatory in origin, mainly affecting young people.
Various treatment options are available, depending on the type and location of the uveitis:
- In most cases, anterior uveitis is treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops
- Non-infectious posterior uveitis is treated with cortisone administered orally or through injections around the eye
- Chronic forms of uveitis may require the use of immunomodulatory drugs
- Surgery is not a conventional treatment for uveitis, but it can be effective to correct associated complications such as cataracts or glaucoma (affecting the anterior segment), retinal detachment, vitreous opacity or macular edema (affecting the back of the eye)
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