What causes uveitis?
Uveitis occurs when the middle layer of tissue surrounding the eye – known as the uvea, sandwiched between the sclera (the outer white coating of the eye) and the retina (the innermost layer which captures images) – becomes inflamed. These inflamed blood vessels can affect not just the retina and sclera, but the cornea and other parts of the eye. If left untreated, uveitis can lead to blindness.
The most common cause of uveitis is autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and sarcoidosis. But there is a host of other causes, including trauma to the eye, herpes, shingles, histoplasmosis (a fungus) and toxoplasmosis (a parasite).
Who is affected by uveitis? And what are the symptoms of uveitis?
Uveitis can affect people of all ages, including children, though young adults with autoimmune conditions are the most frequent targets. Symptoms of uveitis include redness of the eye, pain and sensitivity to light. Patients may notice these signs rapidly, or they can be slow in developing, accompanied by gradual blurring of vision.
How is uveitis treated?
Most importantly, you should seek immediate treatment if uveitis is suspected to prevent permanent vision loss.
Most cases of uveitis are treated initially with steroidal eye drops to reduce inflammation and pain. If that fails to work, we move on to steroidal injections or oral medication. In the course of treating the disease, it may also be necessary to address complications involving glaucoma, cataracts, neovascularization (growth of unwanted new blood vessels) and malignancies of the eye. For recurring cases of uveitis, we may escalate treatment to include immunosuppressors. That’s when treatment from a skilled uveitis specialist with knowledge of the broad range of immunosuppressors — including the new class of biologics (HUMIRA®, REMICADE® and others) – is so important. In addition, NYEE is able to draw on the expertise and services of other specialists at Mount Sinai – such as rheumatologists, gastroenterologists and dermatologists – when treating uveitis associated with autoimmune disease.