Eye Inflammation

Eye inflammation is a common ailment that can occur for a number of reasons. It is often referred to as uveitis, referencing the “uvea” part of the eye. There are several different types of uveitis, classified by which section of the eye is inflamed:

  • Anterior, which affects the iris or the iris and ciliary body
  • Intermediate, which affects the ciliary body
  • Posterior, which affects the choroid
  • Diffuse, which is the inflammation of all areas of the uvea

Inflammation can vary greatly in severity, and thus diagnoses and treatments are not all uniform. It’s possible for the condition to be chronic and result in permanent damage to the eye. A recent study done in California estimates that 280,000 Americans experience eye inflammation each year.

Eye Inflammation Symptoms

Symptoms of eye inflammation can vary depending on where the inflammation is located. It’s unlikely that all symptoms will be present. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Eyes that are aching or otherwise in pain
  • Red eyes
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • Blurred and/or cloudy vision
  • Floaters – random spots obscuring vision

There are also signs on the eye itself that are microscopic and can only be seen by an ophthalmologist using a slit lamp microscope.

Eye Inflammation Causes

There are hundreds of things that can cause eye inflammation. However, most of the time the cause is actually unknown. The most common causes are trauma or injury to the eye and various types of infections. It’s been shown that smoking actually increases your risk of experiencing eye inflammation. Immunological systemic disorders can also greatly increase risk of eye inflammation.

  • Eye trauma or injury
  • Injections
  • Smoking
  • Immunological systemic disorders

Eye Inflammation Diagnosis

Eye inflammation needs to be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist (specialist in medical and surgical eye problems). They make the diagnosis from assessing basic symptoms and questioning the patient, and then by examining the eye with a slit lamp microscope.

They will also test vision and eye pressures. One symptom common of all eye inflammations is the accumulation of white blood cells in portions of the eye where they shouldn’t be, which is what ophthalmologists primarily look for to make their diagnosis. Since it’s often difficult to ascertain the cause of eye inflammation, a treatment plan is usually composed before the cause is known. If there are symptoms of other diseases or conditions, the ophthalmologist may refer the patient to other specialists.

Eye Inflammation Treatment

Treatment for eye inflammation usually directly targets the inflammation itself by using steroids.

  • Eye drops: Eye drops are a main form of treatment because the inflammation is usually in the front portion of the eye.
  • Medications and injections: Inflammations farther back in the eye may require tablets or injections. Treatment can last anywhere from a week to even over a year, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. If the cause is known to be infectious, anti-infective medication may also be prescribed.