Inflammation is the body’s immediate response to infection or injury and a sign of the body’s healing process. Inflammation in the uvea, or middle layer of the eye, is called uveitis, though this term is often used to refer to inflammation of the interior of the eye in general. Uveitis is characterized by redness, swelling, burning, pain, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and floating spots before the eyes.
Inflammation of the eye is most commonly caused by infection — viral, fungal, or bacterial — which may also affect other parts of the body. It also can be the result of irritation from a foreign substance, or some other type of injury. It is not caused by stress and can affect one or both eyes at the same time.
The four types of eye inflammation are iritis, cyclitis, retinitis, and choroditis. Iritis is the most common form of inflammation of the eye and affects the iris. Iritis can develop without warning, and symptoms may continue for up to eight weeks, even with treatment. Iritis is most commonly caused by autoimmune system diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Retinitis, which affects the back of the eye, and choroditis, which affects the layer beneath the retina, can also be caused by autoimmune disease, such as RA or lupus.
RA is a common disease affecting millions. Women are three times more likely than men to have RA, which is characterized by swelling and pain of the joints and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joints. The disease can begin at any age, but will mostly affect people over the age of 40 and under 60. RA is chronic, meaning it can last for years. The cause of RA is unknown and is the subject of much research around the world, though there is evidence that it is genetic.
Aside from eye inflammation, the most common symptoms of lupus are extreme fatigue, fever, headaches, and painful or swollen joints. Other problems related to lupus include anemia; light sensitivity; hair loss; swelling of the hands, legs, or feet, or around the eyes; pain in the chest with deep breathing; and abnormal blood clotting. A person with lupus may notice that his fingers turn white or blue when they are cold, and a butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose, and mouth or nose ulcers also are possible.
Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is a common inflammation of the eye. It involves swelling and redness of the membrane lining the eyelids, also known as the conjunctiva, and is caused by exposure to bacteria or other irritants. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by allergies, chemical exposure, parasites, and extensive use of contact lenses. It is especially contagious among children.
Treatment for eye inflammation — specifically iritis — may include steroid eyedrops, injections, or other medications. Eyedrops to dilate the pupil and reduce pain are also prescribed. Eye inflammation is a serious condition and should not be neglected. Untreated inflammation of the eye can result in loss of vision, and those experiencing it should seek treatment.