What is Anterior uveitis?
Anterior uveitis is a common inflammation of the eye – more specifically, the iris. The iris is the coloured part of the eye. In Anterior uveitis, the iris becomes inflamed and the blood vessels within the iris leak white blood cells and protein into the anterior chamber (the cavity in the front of the eye). The ciliary body that is behind the iris may also become inflamed with Anterior uveitis. Anterior uveitis is not an infection and it is not contagious. The symptoms of Anterior uveitis include light sensitivity, throbbing eye pain, and blurred vision. The eye will look very red and inflamed and some patients need to wear sunglasses to help with the light sensitivity. The causes of red eye are virtually endless. The treatment required needs to be tailored for the particular cause of red eye. This stresses the importance for patients to seek the care of their optometrist to be properly and thoroughly assessed for Anterior uveitis and other possible causes of red eye.
What causes Anterior uveitis?
In most cases we don’t know what causes it. For some patients, Anterior uveitis can occur regularly. Blood tests or x-rays can be done to find a potential cause. The following conditions contribute to the cause of Anterior uveitis including rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, anklylosing spondlyitis, lupus, syphilis, gout, herpes virus infection, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, and eye injury.
Are there risk factors with Anterior uveitis?
Anterior uveitis can be quite painful and if left untreated for too long, can lead to other eye problems such as glaucoma, or cause permanent structural damage. It usually responds well to steroid treatment and dilating eye drops. But depending on the underlying cause, there may be a tendency for the condition to recur.
How is Anterior uveitis treated?
Anterior uveitis is treated by using two different eye drops. One drop serves to dilate the pupil to help reduce the eye pain associated wit the pupil changing size. The second drop is a steroid to calm the inflammation. Depending on the severity of the Anterior uveitis, the drops may be used for up to four weeks. The steroid drops used for treating Anterior uveitis need to be used according to the schedule recommended by your eye doctor since there can be complications from using steroids for a prolonged period of time or discontinuing use too quickly. A patient suffering from Anterior uveitis is slowly tapered off the steroid drop to reduce the chance of a rebound effect or reoccurrence of the Anterior uveitis. The commonly prescribed antibiotics for red eye are useless in treating Anterior uveitis.
Image courtesy of the International Centre for Eye Health www.iceh.org.uk, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Published in: Community Eye Health Journal Vol. 18 No. 53 MARCH 2005 www.cehjournal.org