Uveitis means "inflammation of the uvea" or the middle layer of the eye. This area contains fine capillaries that supply blood to the eye, and can be affected by Uveitis. Chronic inflammation due to Uveitis can overtime cause permanent vision loss if not controlled.
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A Leading Cause of Blindness
Uvetis is a contributing factor to a number of serious eye conditions, including cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. It is the third leading cause of blindness iin developed nations, and the fifth leading cause of blindness in America. Without treatment it frequently leads to vision loss.
The uvea consists of three structures
- The iris, the colored tissue surrounding the pupil.
- The ciliary body, muscle, located behind the iris which focuses the lens.
- The choroid, containing blood vessels that line the back of the eye.
Inflammation occurring in any of these three structures is termed "uveitis". Inflammation in uveitis may involve any but not necessarily all of these three structures. Depending upon which structures are inflamed, uveitis may be further subcategorized into one of three main diagnoses. These include:
Severe and permanent visual loss can result from uveitis. In addition, uveitis can lead to other ocular complications which may produce vision loss, including glaucoma, cataracts or retinal damage. Early detection and treatment is necessary to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss.
Depending on which part of the eye is inflamed in uveitis, a combination of the following symptoms may be present:
Redness, light sensitivity, floaters, blurry vision and/or pain.
These symptoms may come on suddenly, and you may not experience any pain. The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have uveitis. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.
Uveitis may develop following eye trauma or surgery, in association with diseases which affect other organs in the body, or may be a condition isolated to the eye itself.
In addition, smokers are almost twice as likely to develop uvetis as non-smokers. Learn more about the relationship between smoking and uveitis.
Uveitis can also be a side effect of other health conditions such as:
- Sarcoidosis - an inflammatory disease involving mostly the lungs and lymph glands.
- Inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's disease and colitis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis - chronic inflammation of the joints may cause anterior uveitis (iritis) but more often can cause dry eye, keratitis and scleritis.2
- Psoriatic arthritis is a kind of arthritis which includes scaled skin tissue - it can be the contributing cause of anterior uveitis (iritis).2
- Ankylosing spondylitis - an inflammatory condition involving the spine which is also associated with anterior uveitis.2
- Allergies - chronic allergies which cause general inflammation in the body.
- Digestive disorders - chronic problems in digestion due to inflammation.
Medical treatment of uveitis must be aggressive to prevent glaucoma, to prevent scarring of the structures inside the eye and to prevent possible blindness. Different medications are used to control the original cause of the uveitis, if known, and to minimize the inflammation itself. Aspirin (not aspirin substitutes) or Rimadyl© by mouth and indomethacin, Profenal©, Ocufen©, Voltaren© and corticosteroids (cortisone drugs) minimize the inflammatory process. Corticosteroids may be administered by injection under the conjunctiva (moveable white tissue of the eye), by eye drops or as an oral medication or a combination of these means depending on the location of uveitis. Eye drops are most often used for anterior uveitis. Injections and oral medication are used for posterior uveitis or panuveitis. Drops in the eye must be postponed if damage to the corneal surface is present (ulcer) because the corticosteroids prevent healing of the ulcer or lead to a worsening of the ulcer.
Self Help Discussion
- Certain nutrients such as Serrapeptase, fish oil, vitamin C and MSM may help reduce inflammation naturally due to uveitis, and offers an excellent complement to the recommendations of your eye doctor.
- Supplementation with research-proven nutrients and eyedrops that contain targeted nutrients and herbs that support healthy vision and overall eye health. Some include antioxidants including, bilberry, grapeseed extract, lutein, zeaxanthin, MSM, curcumin and echinacea.
- Lifestyle and diet suggestions - see our suggestions to support healthy vision.
- Reduce sugar in your diet. Research indicates that diets that are high in refined sugars increase inflammation.1
- Reduce refined starches such as white flour and white rice in your diet. Research connects these highly processed foods with increased inflammation.1
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Although the underlying physiological cause of uveitis might be unique, research shows that chronic eye inflammatory conditions are often related to underlying autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, infection, exposure to toxins, or even a compromised digestive system.
- Immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Some conditions that may have similar symptoms:
1. Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, Stress, Food and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge, Psychosom Medicine, May, 2010.
2. Pi Murray, S. Rauz, The eye and inflammatory rheumatic diseases: The eye and rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, Best Practice & Research. Clinical Rheumatology, October, 2016.