Understanding the eye can be complicated even for some of the most intelligent and knowledgeable scientists and researchers. Trying to understand it on your own can be even more difficult. That’s why we’ve researched one of the most common, yet perplexing conditions: uveitis.
Uveitis is a general term used to describe diseases and infections that affect the uvea area of the eye. General terms do us no favors when it comes to understanding the inner workings of the eye. Let’s take a look at what these diseases actually are, what causes them and what we can do about them.
What Is the Uvea?
The uvea is the area that is affected by uveitis, but it is actually composed of three parts of the eye: the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid. The uvea is considered to be the middle layer of the eye, placing itself between the whites of our eyes (the sclera) and the retina (the inner layer).
The iris needs no introduction. It is probably the most recognizable part of the eye. The iris is the colored part of your eye. Your iris controls how much light gets into the eye by constricting and expanding the pupil. The iris also secretes the necessary nutrients into the lens of the eye.
The ciliary body is what helps our eyes to focus. It controls the shape of the lens depending on what our eyes are focusing on (i.e. focusing on distant objects or near objects).
The choroid is the spongy middle layer that travels around the entire eyeball. Its main purpose is to provide proper nutrients for the inner layer.
When uveitis occurs, it doesn’t just affect the three parts of the eye that make up the uvea. Depending on the type of uveitis, it can affect the middle layer, the lens, the retina, the optic nerve and the vitreous (the gel at the center of the eye that helps to keep the eye round).
Having uveitis has a domino effect. If one part goes down, they all do.
Types of Uveitis
When diagnosed with uveitis, your doctor may place you under one of the four types of uveitis: anterior, posterior, intermediate and panuveitis.
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1. Anterior Uveitis
Anterior uveitis is the most common of the four types. This uveitis mostly affects young to middle aged people. This type of uveitis causes inflammation in the front parts of the eye. It can be caused by other diseases or can be caused by trauma to the eye such as being hit or getting foreign bodies in the eye.
Symptoms of anterior uveitis include: inflamed or red eyes, eye pain, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, slow pupil dilation.
Anterior uveitis is treatable and normally responds very well to treatment. Treatments often include prescription eye drops to reduce inflammation. It can take several days before the uveitis heals completely.
During the healing period, it’s good to eat natural anti-inflammatories such as tomatoes, olive oil and lots of leafy greens. This will speed up the healing process and prevent the uveitis from coming back.
Anterior uveitis, though it is easily treatable, does often reoccur. Be sure to prevent this by eating the proper foods.
2. Posterior Uveitis
Posterior uveitis, on the other hand is the least common type of uveitis. This type of uveitis mainly affects the choroid and the retina. This rare type of uveitis is sometimes called choroiditis. It can be caused by either infections or non-infections factors.
Infectious factors include bacteria, fungal and viral infections. Non-infectious factors include allergies, malignancies or sometimes unknown causes.
Posterior uveitis is more subtle than anterior uveitis when it comes to symptoms. The main symptom associated with this type of uveitis is specks or floaters in your vision. If left untreated, posterior uveitis can lead to a detached retina and lost vision.
Treatment for posterior uveitis is a little more complicated than treating anterior uveitis. Because posterior uveitis is often a side effect of another condition such as allergies or a viral infection, it is important to find the underlying cause.
Once that cause if found, your doctor will help you treat it and your posterior uveitis should disappear with it.
If the underlying cause is unknown, you will likely be prescribed steroids in the form of eye drops to cure the uveitis. The steroids should be used as a last resort. A natural remedy would be to eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatories. If your problem persists, talk to your doctor.
3. Intermediate Uveitis
Intermediate uveitis affects the vitreous part of the eye. The inflammation is normally brought on by other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, Lyme disease and sarcoidosis. Intermediate uveitis can develop at any age however it is most common in children and teenagers.
Signs of the condition include: blurred vision, floaters, eye pain, redness, and extreme sensitivity to light. If left untreated, intermediate uveitis can cause permanent damage to the eye and vision loss.
Much like posterior uveitis, one must treat the underlying cause of intermediate uveitis for the inflammation to go down. However, sometimes the underlying cause is untreatable.
In this case, eating a diet rich in the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin can help with inflammation and light sensitivity. Wearing sunglasses and other light blockers can help with reducing pain caused by light.
Fortunately this type of uveitis is very rare.
Rarest of all however, is panuveitis. This type of uveitis affects every part of the uvea. It is all encompassing. As a result, it affects the retina, the vitreous, the lens and the optic nerve.
This type of uveitis often results in blindness when not treated. Symptoms include: redness in the eye, pain, floaters, blurred vision, light sensitivity and decreased vision. Panuveitis can either last a few days or become a recurring condition.
Early detecting and treating is crucial for panuveitis. It may be the rarest form, but it is by far the most dangerous. Its cause is unknown but it is widely thought to be associated with other eye diseases and conditions.
Treatment normally includes anti-inflammatory eye drops. However, as mentioned before, a healthy alternative is to incorporate more natural anti-inflammatories into your everyday diet.
Though the outcomes of each type of uveitis are incredibly different, they all have similar symptoms. The only way to know what type of uveitis you have is to have a doctor diagnose you. They will then know how to properly treat your uveitis.