Eye Inflammation can affect different parts of your eyes. There are several conditions that can cause eye inflammation, including those inside the eye like uveitis and episcleritis, and around the eye such as blepharitis.
Each condition has specific symptoms, causes and treatments. They range from the mild and easily treatable, to those that can cause permanent damage to the eyes and vision. So, if you are suffering from any kind of inflammation, pain, or discomfort in your eyes, it’s important to see your optometrist right away. We can diagnose your problem and recommend the right treatment.
Uveitis is a condition that causes inflammation inside your eye. Uveitis affects the uvea, which is the middle layer of tissue and structures between the white of the eye and the retina. It’s rare, affecting 2-5 people in every 10,000 every year in the U.K. (1) and between 38 to 748 per 100,000 globally. (2)
Sometimes uveitis can go away quickly, but it can be serious and lead to a permanent loss of vision.(3) Uveitis is a leading cause of blindness and accounts for 10–15% of vision loss worldwide.(4)
It’s important to see your optometrist if you are worried that you may be suffering from uveitis. The quicker it is treated the better.
There are many causes of uveitis, but they are usually related to problems with the immune system. It’s often difficult to establish the cause but the most common are autoimmune or inflammatory diseases, an infection or injury to the eye. (5)
Symptoms of uveitis can start suddenly or develop over several days. They can include: (6)
• Eye pain,
• Blurry or cloudy vision,
• Floaters (small shapes that float across your field of vision),
• Red eyes,
• Sensitivity to light,
• Loss of peripheral vision.
There are several types of uveitis. The type of uveitis you have depends on the part of your eye that’s affected. (7) (8)
Iritis or anterior uveitis is the most common type of uveitis. It affects the front of your eye. Iritis symptoms include redness, pain and can come on quickly.
Intermediate uveitis affects the retina, blood vessels behind the lens and the gel-like fluid that fills the eye. It can cause floaters and blurred vision.
Posterior uveitis affects the back of your eye and can cause more serious vision problems. (9)
Diffuse uveitis or panuveitis affects all the layers of your eye from the front to the back.
If you are diagnosed with uveitis, your optometrist will suggest treatment depending on the type and cause. Medicine is the most common treatment, usually steroids (eye drops, pills or injections). In rare, serious cases, your ophthalmologist will recommend surgery.
If the uveitis is caused by an underlying infection, that may also need to be treated. You could be given antivirals, antibiotics, or antifungal medicine. For some people, immunosuppressants may be prescribed to help control your immune system.
Episcleritis is another condition that can cause your eye to become inflamed. It is a condition that affects the episclera, the tissue between the lining of your inner eyelids and the white part of your eye.
Symptoms of episcleritis include redness of the eyes, mild soreness or discomfort, and swelling. While it can be uncomfortable, it doesn’t typically cause problems with vision.
The exact cause of this condition isn’t known, but it tends to occur more often in people with underlying inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea, lupus and Crohn’s disease. (10)
Episcleritis often goes away by itself, so treatment isn’t always necessary. Topical or inflammatory medicines may be prescribed by your optometrist to help with pain or in recurring cases.
Blepharitis is a common condition that causes eyelid inflammation. The edges of your eyelids become red and swollen and it can be uncomfortable and unpleasant but shouldn’t cause permanent damage if taken care of.
If you have blepharitis, it’s likely that your symptoms will be worse in the mornings. They include: (11)
• Red, swollen eyelids,
• Itchy or sore eyelids,
• Dandruff-like flakes on the eyelashes,
• Crusted eyelashes,
• Eyelids sticking together,
• Feeling of something stuck in your eye(s),
• Watery eye(s),
• Blurred vision that gets better when you blink,
• Sensitivity to light.
The exact cause of blepharitis isn’t known, but it’s usually due to:
• Infection: an overgrowth of bacteria at the base of the eyelashes.
• Certain skin conditions: such as seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea and contact dermatitis.
• Eyelash mites: these are parasites that can be found on the eyelashes. They normally don’t cause any issues but sometimes they can build up at the base of the eyelashes causing flakes and irritation. (13)
It is not contagious, so other people won’t catch it from you if you have it.
There isn’t a cure, but if you suffer from eyelid inflammation your optometrist may suggest options to help ease the symptoms such as:
• Daily eyelid-cleaning routine: This is the most important and effective way to reduce the intensity and frequency of symptoms even if you don’t currently have an infection.
• Over-the counter treatments: Medicated eyelid washes can help clear up and prevent infections. (14)
• Antibiotic ointment or drops: In more serious cases of blepharitis, antibiotics might be necessary.
If you would like to learn more about uveitis including iritis, episcleritis, blepharitis or other eye inflammation conditions, please head over to the NHS website.