Uveitis is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea or uveal tract
What is uveitis?
Uveitis is a term that covers a variety clinic phenotype of eye conditions of intraocular inflammation conditions. There are different terms that people refer to uveitis, as iritis and chorioretinitis, however, each of them has different meanings.
Uveitis is more common in people aged 20 to 59, but may happen in any age.
It's estimated that two to five in every 10,000 people is affected by uveitis in the UK every year. Despite being an uncommon eye condition, uveitis is an important cause of visual impairment in this country.
Most cases get better with treatment. However, uveitis may lead to further eye problems such glaucoma and cataract.
The sooner uveitis is treated, the more successful the treatment is likely to be. This is why it is very important to confirm a diagnosis of uveitis as soon as possible if you develop symptoms that could be related to the condition.
At Moorfields Eye Hospital, we have a dedicated uveitis service, where patients with acute and chronic diseases are seen. In addition, expertise is available in the management of complex cases.
We can offer advice on all aspects of the medical and surgical management of patients with these diseases, including children.
How uveitis affects vision and what causes it
Symptoms of uveitis include:
• eye pain – usually a dull ache in or around your eye, which may be worse when focusing the vision.
• eye redness.
• light sensitivity (photophobia).
• blurred or cloudy vision.
• small shapes that move across your visual field (floaters).
• loss of the ability to see objects at the side of your field of vision.
The symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually and one or both eyes may be affected by the condition. In some cases, however, the symptoms may be minimal and not noticed.
The inflammation may be limited to the eyes or it could be related to a condition somewhere else in your body.
The causes may vary and they can be primarily inflammatory, infective, malignant or injury to the eye. However, in about 40% of patients it remains undetermined, even after appropriate clinical assessment and investigation.
Types of uveitis
There are different types of classifications for this condition, but the most common are related to which part of the eye is affected and the duration of symptoms:
- Anterior Uveitis – this is inflammation of the iris (iritis) or inflammation of the iris and the ciliary body (iridocyclitis), and is the most common type of uveitis, accounting for the majority of the cases:
- > acute anterior uveitis – the commonest form of acute uveitis, accounting for one in four of all intraocular inflammation.
- > chronic anterior uveitis – defined as persisting for more than three months.
- Intermediate uveitis – this affects the area around and behind the ciliary body, also known as an inflammation that is centered on the pars plana and peripheral retina.
- Posterior uveitis – this affects the area at the back of the eye, the choroid and the retina. It is also known as chorioretinits.
- Panuveitis – this happens when the inflammation affects front and back of the eye.
How can I be diagnosed with uveitis?
The diagnosis of uveitis is predominantely clinical, subject to meticulous history taking and examination. It is vital that a comprenhensive ocular and systemic history is taken by the doctor. In order to help that, you may keep a logbook about some previous events that may be related to your condition. You can also keep the letters and the documents you have if you have already been seen by your GP or another specialist and bring them to your appointment.
Which investigations will I need?
Depending on the presentation, symptoms, severity of the condition, we may need to do further tests to confirm or exclude some eye and/or systemic conditions.
The most common tests are eye scans and/or photographs, blood tests and chest x-ray. After examining your eyes, your eye doctor will be able to explain to you which tests you will need to have done.
Treatments for uveitis
The treatment for the condition depends on the cause of the inflammation. It is important to understand why the inflammation is happening so we can deliver the specific treatment, for example, antibiotics in cases of infections, although finding its cause may not always be possible.
The main treatment of uveitis is a medication called corticosteroid, also known as steroid, which can reduce inflammation inside the eye.
Several different types of steroid medication may be used, depending on the type of uveitis you have. Eye drops are often used for uveitis affecting the front of the eye, whereas injections, tablets and capsules are more often used to treat uveitis affecting the middle and back of the eye.
Some cases may require other treatments, including eye drops to relieve the pain or dilate the pupil; another type of medication, called an immunosuppressant; and rarely surgery.
All these drugs have possible side effects and your doctor will explain them to you. We may need to proceed with frequent assessments including blood tests in order to monitor your general health.
Please, note that steroid should not be stopped suddenly because you may develop serious ‘rebound inflammation’ or you may have severe consequences in your health. Always seek for advice from your doctor if you have any question about your medication.
Which complications can I experience?
Although most cases of uveitis, especially in the front part of the eye, respond quickly to treatment and cause no further consequences there is still a risk of complications, which is related to the area of the eye is affected.
The risk of complication is higher in people who have intermediate or posterior uveitis, or who have repeated episodes of uveitis.
Complications of uveitis include permanent deterioration in vision, glaucoma, cataract, retinal damage and macular swelling, among others.
Information and psychological support
If you feel you need more support about your sight loss, you can contact your GP to arrange some counselling.
Support groups / websites options:
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
- Tel: 0207 388 1266
Birdshot Uveitis Society
Olivia’s Vision Website
If you experience any symptoms and you are unsure if you have uveitis or if you have a flare up of uveitis, you can be seen in our Accident and Emergency Service, which runs 24 hours seven days per week.
How to contact us
Moorfields Uveitis Service Email
You can send us an email if you have any query about your condition. Please note that this is only available to Moorfields patients and you must provide your Moorfields reference number, full name and date of birth in all correspondence. The emails are monitored 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday and one of the Uveitis team will respond back as soon as possible.
Moorfields Direct telephone helpline
Phone: 020 7566 2345
Information and advice on eye conditions and treatments from experienced ophthalmic-trained nurses.
Patient advice and liaison service (PALS)
Phone: 020 7566 2324/ 020 7566 2325
Moorfields’ PALS team provides confidential advice and support to help you with any concerns you may have about the care we provide, guiding you through the different services available