Uveitis and Ocular Inflammatory Disease
What is Uveitis?
The Texas Uveitis Center at UTHealth Houston treats uveitis, a leading cause of blindness that affects approximately 300,00 adults and 22,000 children in the U.S. The eye inflammation can be caused by toxins, infection, or autoimmune disease. Uveitis has specific names, depending on the part of the eye affected. Scleritis, for example, is inflammation of the wall of the eye; myositis is inflammation of the muscles around the eye; and chorioretinitis is inflammation of the back of the eye.
As part of patient diagnosis, our physicians conduct a careful patient eye exam, perform advanced imaging, and use appropriate diagnostics to classify your case of uveitis. They then deploy targeted therapies to treat the disease and preserve vision, while minimizing side effects. Our team collaborates with internal medicine, pediatrics, rheumatology, and other specialties in treating the patient. Amid a national shortage of eye doctors who specialize in uveitis, our program also endeavors to train eye doctors in the proper care of uveitis patients.
Causes of Uveitis
Uveitis is an autoimmune disease of the eye. While the immune system ordinarily protects the body from bacterial and viral infections, it can malfunction and attack parts of the body. Patients with uveitis may have autoimmune disease in other parts of the body, but they often do not.
Symptoms of Uveitis
Uveitis can reduce vision in many ways. It may cause the cornea in the front of the eye to become cloudy, scarred, or calcified. The lens may also develop clouding, known as cataract. Adhesions, floaters, and swelling may also occur. Specialists at the Texas Uveitis Center will monitor the eye for any early symptoms so they can be treated before vision deteriorates.
Diagnosis of Uveitis
Your fellowship-trained ophthalmology specialist at the center will conduct a complete eye exam and determine what testing is needed to diagnose the specific type of ocular inflammatory disease, as well as to determine whether there is an infection or autoimmune disorder. Uveitis is diagnosed nearly 45,000 times a year in the United States. It can lead to severe eye problems, including permanent vision loss, if not treated.
Treatment of Uveitis
While treatment depends on the underlying cause, medication will be prescribed to reduce the immune system’s activity. Steroid eye drops may be used to treat uveitis in the front portion of the eye, but oral or injectable steroids may be needed for uveitis in other parts of the eye.
Steroids are typically used for one to three months to reduce inflammation and then tapered off to avoid adverse effects. In some patients, uveitis treated with steroids will “stay quiet” for months to years after the steroids are stopped. In other patients with more severe disease, the inflammation will return quickly, and therapy may need to continue for long periods. In this case, we recommend alternative non-steroid or other medications that can be taken for longer periods without the side effects of steroids.
Our physicians treats many children and young adults with uveitis. While there is usually no cause, blood work will be ordered to check for rare infections and other autoimmune diseases that trigger inflammation. Most children, especially when they start treatment early, do well long-term. The good results that steroids usually produce must be balanced with the potential negative long-term visual outcomes they might contribute to.
What you can expect at the Texas Uveitis Center at UTHealth Houston
The center is housed in Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza at 6400 Fannin Street. It includes dozens of exam areas, multiple operating rooms, and laser suites equipped with the most sophisticated equipment available for patient care.
At the Texas Uveitis Center at UTHealth Houston, we offer patients access to highly specialized eye and vision care. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-9400, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.