It affects the part of the eye called the uvea which consists of the iris, ciliary body and choroid. Uveitis can cause serious problems and vision loss but with prompt treatment it can be controlled in most people.
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There are different types of uveitis depending on which parts of the eye are involved with inflammation.
It is unknown why most people get uveitis and it can develop in people who are completely healthy. However, there is a greater risk of uveitis in people
with other inflammatory or autoimmune problems such as; inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory arthritis and psoriasis.
The most common cause in New Zealand is HLA B27- related uveitis. HLA-B27 is a gene that some people are born with that can predispose to uveitis developing later in life. In some cases uveitis is caused by an infection. Your ophthalmologist may request investigations to check for an underlying cause.
Symptoms depend on the type of uveitis present (whether it mainly affects the front or the back of the eye). The most common symptoms are redness, light sensitivity, eye ache and blur. It usually affects one eye, but in some people both eyes will be involved.
There is no known cure for uveitis, but in most cases it can be treated very effectively with a course of steroid eye drops over four to six weeks. Cases of intermediate or panuveitis usually require additional treatment as eye drops cannot penetrate well into the back of the eye.
Depending on the severity of the disease, your doctor may recommend oral steroid therapy or steroid injections around the eye. In very rare cases other immunosuppressant medications are required.
How long does it last?
The most common type of uveitis, anterior uveitis (affecting the front of the eye), typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks. Some cases of uveitis are chronic and can last for months or years, but this is much less common.
Those with intermediate uveitis and panuveitis are more likely to have a chronic course. Uveitis can return at any stage and it is very important to see your ophthalmologist promptly if you notice any symptoms returning.
Auckland Eye - New Zealand Centre of Excellence for Eye Care