Uveitis refers to inflammation inside the eye, specifically the uveal tract. The uveal tract is composed of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid; all of which are rich in blood vessels. Due to the high concentration of blood vessels, the uveal tract is a target for diseases occurring in other parts of the body. The inflammation can target one or all three portions of the uveal tract.
Causes for uveitis fall into three main categories: infectious disease, autoimmune disease, and neoplasia.
In Texas, infectious diseases are quite common and can be bacterial, fungal, viral, or even tick borne. It is important to test for these diseases as treatment for the uveitis will be more specific if the cause is known. In approximately 60% of uveitis cases, the specific cause is not found despite thorough diagnostic testing.
Certainly, trauma to the eye whether penetrating or blunt will lead to uveitis. The presence of cataracts inside the eye will also lead to a low grade uveitis over time.
Outward symptoms of uveitis may include:
- Blinking or squinting
- Excessive tearing
- Sensitivity to light
- Redness in the white part of the eye (bloodshot eye)
- Cloudiness to the cornea
- Bleeding inside the eye
Uveitis is diagnosed with the aid of slit lamp biomicroscope. This allows the ophthalmogist to evaluate the uveal tract under high magnification. The type and amount of inflammation can be objectively measured and recorded. A tonometer will be used to measure pressure inside the eyes.
A complete physical exam will also be performed as many times inflammation inside the eye is manifestation of disease or inflammation elsewhere in the body. Along the same vein, blood work will be recommended to evaluate internal organ function and screen for common infectious diseases.
Further diagnostics could include ocular ultrasound, chest radiographs, and abdominal ultrasound.
Often, anti-inflammatory treatment will be instituted while diagnostic tests are pending. These anti-inflammatories may be topical or oral medications. Broad spectrum antibiotics may also be prescribed if infection is suspected. Atropine is a medication that dilates the pupil, relaxes any iris spasm that may be present, and stabilizes blood vessels in the eye.
The treatment protocol will be modified if the diagnostic tests reveal a specific cause of the inflammation.
Uveitis can lead to many secondary conditions or ocular side effects such as conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, corneal scarring, corneal vascularization, corneal mineralization, intraocular scarring, glaucoma, retinal detachment or degeneration, bleeding inside the eye, excessive tearing, cataract formation, and lens luxation. Some of these complications lead to blindness.
Depending on the cause of uveitis, treatment can be prolonged. Many cases of uveitis are treated for several months before all signs of uveitis are cleared. If the immune system is involved, lifelong therapy may be required.
Our goal at South Texas Veterinary Ophthalmology is to do everything in our power to maintain vision in your pet’s eyes as well as make your pet comfortable during the healing process.