Uveitis is when part of the eye suddenly becomes inflamed, giving you a very painful, red eye. You might also experience discomfort in bright light (photophobia), blurring or reduced vision. It's important to seek help and get this treated promptly, as in severe cases it can lead to a loss of vision.
Uveitis affects the middle layer of the eyeball, including the iris, which gives your eye it's unique colour, a muscle behind the iris called the ciliary body, and a layer called the choroid.
Most cases of uveitis affect just one eye, but it can affect the other later on. Most cases are acute, meaning it comes on suddenly, and lasts for a few days, although it can be a few weeks. Some people get repeated episodes and others have an ongoing inflammation, known as chronic uveitis, which is defined as lasting more than six months.
Uveitis can come out of the blue and we don't know what has caused it. An autoimmune process may be behind it, where your body attacks certain parts of itself, and this may go along with certain other conditions. Other triggers include an eye infection or injury. If you wear contact lenses, you should switch them to your glasses as soon as possible. Sunglasses may make you feel more comfortable when in daylight.
Uveitis puts you at higher risk of developing glaucoma or cataracts in the long term so make sure you get regular eye checks.
You should ring your doctor to book an urgent appointment or ring NHS 111 if you have any of the above symptoms of uveitis. If you live in a large city, there may be an eye hospital you can attend as an emergency. Your local Emergency Department will also cater for urgent eye problems. The sooner uveitis can be diagnosed and treated the better.
The doctor will ask you about your medical history, your family's medical history and your current symptoms. They will examine your eyes and test your vision. They are likely to refer you to an eye specialist clinic at the hospital.
If diagnosed with uveitis you will likely be prescribed steroids, in the form of eye drops or tablets depending on which part of the eye is affected. You may be prescribed other medications to keep you comfortable. You can also take over the counter pain relief for the pain, your local pharmacist can help advise you with this.
Depending on your job, you are unlikely to be fit for work if you have severe uveitis symptoms. If the symptoms are improving on treatment, you may be fit for work.
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