WHAT IS UVEITIS?
Uveitis means inflammation of the uvea or vascular tissue inside the eye. The iris, ciliary body and choroid make up the uvea. Inflammation of the iris and the ciliary body is called anterior uveitis. Inflammation of the choroid is called posterior uveitis and inflammation of all three structures is called panuveitis.
WHAT CAUSES UVEITIS?
Due to its rich blood supply, the uveal tract is a natural target for diseases originating in other parts of the body. Therefore, systemic infections with bacteria or viruses can show up as inflammation inside the eye. Diseases carried by ticks, parasitic or fungal infections, neoplastic disease or trauma are other potential causes. Blood tests are often recommended to identify or rule out any underlying disease. However, in many cases, the cause of uveitis is never determined and is believed to be immune mediated.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF UVEITIS?
Mild uveitis can be difficult to detect without specialized equipment. Modereate to severe uveitis is more obvious. Owners often notice a red eye, a change in the color or cloudiness of the eye, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, squinting or other signs of pain or loss of vision. In severe cases the front of the eye may fill with blood or fibrin.
HOW IS UVEITIS DIAGNOSED?
A veterinary ophthalmologist with specialized equipment can see changes inside the eye consistent with inflammation. The inflammatory debris produced in uveitis can block the drainage angle and result in increased ocular pressure (glaucoma). A glaucoma test (intraocular pressure measurement) should be performed and other tests might be used to rule out other diseases.
HOW IS UVEITIS TREATED?
Initial treatment typically involves the use of anti-inflammatory eye drops. Sometimes oral medications are necessary. If an underlying systemic disease is identified, specific treatment for this condition is necessary. After the inflammation is well controlled the medications can be reduced in dosage and frequency. Some cases of uveitis resolve whereas in other cases long term treatment may be necessary.
WHAT IF THE UVEITIS IS NOT TREATED?
Uncontrolled uveitis will result in adhesions and disruptions of fluid flow within the eye. This often results in secondary glaucoma causing vision loss and chronic pain. It is important to follow the recommended treatment and re-evaluation schedule to avoid these complications.