The eye is an important sense organ. It is made up of 3 coats. The outer coat is the cornea and sclera. The middle coat is the uveal tract and the inner coat is the retina. The uveal tract consists of 3 parts. The iris is the visible part of the uvea and gives color to the eye (blue, black, brown). The ciliary body is the middle layer of the uvea which manufactures the fluid inside the eye. The choroid is the posterior layer of the uvea which is rich in blood vessels.
Uveitis is the 3rd leading cause of blindness. Inflammation of the uvea can affect the cornea, retina, sclera and other vital parts of the body. Inflammation inside the eye is a medical emergency because, untreated, it will lead to vision loss. Damage to the eye is preventable if detected early and treated adequately.
Inflammation or swelling in any of the part of the uveal tract is called uveitis. Depending on the location of inflammation, it is called anterior uveitis (iris and ciliary body is involved), intermediate uveitis (ciliary body and the vitreous is involved), posterior uveitis (choroids and retina involved), panuveitisd (all layers of the uveal tract are involved)
Causes of Uveitis are many.
• infection (bacteria like tuberculosis, viruses like herpes, parasites like toxoplasmosis)
• autoimmune disease (with or without involvement of other parts of the body). The uveitis may be the presenting manifestation of an underlying systemic disease.
• cataract and retinal detachment.
• idiopathic (cause not known) at the initial visit.
Symptoms can vary from
• Inability to see light (photophobia)
• Black spots moving in front of the eye
• Blurring or reduction in vision
Because uveitis can be caused by so many different things (infections/autoimmune diseases) diagnosis may require detailed laboratory investigations and a referral to a uveitis specialist.The results obtained in the routine laboratory tests and or imaging will be analyzed by the uveitis specialist. Many times a repeat in serologic testing may be needed. Specialized imaging of the eye and its structures may be required. Specialized blood tests related to the immune system may also be ordered to obtain a diagnosis. Depending on the type of uveitis, a sample of the fluid from the eye may also be sent to obtain a diagnosis by molecular diagnostic techniques. As uveitis may be related to a systemic disease, a cross consultation with a rheumatologist, a pulmonologist or a physician may also be done.