Uveitis: eye infection could indicate auto-immune disease

Uveitis: eye infection could indicate auto-immune disease

You've heard the phrase "eyes are the window to the soul," but to doctors eyes really can be a window into the body. A fairly common eye infection, Uveitis, can indicate a much more serious immune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease.

Symptoms include severe light sensitivity, redness and pain. Even a cell phone light could cause severe pain.

"The patients will have a lot of photo-phobia. Even light going into an eye that's not involved will cause the contraction or movement of the iris on the opposite side and they'll get intense pain," said Dr. Don Bravin, ophthalmologist at The Eye Clinic.

Uveitis, or more commonly called Iritis, is an inflammation of the eye tissues most often around the iris.

"The eye looks red like a pink eye or something like that. There's much more pain involved than ordinary conjunctivitis, you know pink eye type thing is not painful. It's annoying, but not painful," explained Dr. Bravin.

He sees several patients a month with the infection and about 80 percent of the time he cannot explain what caused it.

"The most common kind of anterior uveitis we don't know what causes it," explained Dr. Bravin.

The infection could point to some serious auto-immune problems like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory disorders like Chron's.

"Why the eye is attacked this way, we don't know. There's a link, we don't know why, but between joint diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, urinary tract infections, lung problems"

Steroids can calm the inflammation, but if left untreated it could cause permanent damage.

"It could be blinding if it's scarring the back of the eye and it's right in the middle of macula, so it's very serious," warned Dr. Bravin.

In fact, it is the 3rd most common cause of preventable blindness.

Another side effect of this disease, floaters or clusters of cells that can form in the eye and impair vision.

Dr. Bravin warns that people with Iritis can often have a reoccurring problem that comes back in waves.

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