If you have uveitis, good communication with your eye doctor is key.

  • They should explain your diagnosis and what it means in words you can understand.
  • You should know your treatment options, their costs, and their side effects.
  • You should have the final say in all decisions about your eye health.

It’s also crucial for you to answer your doctor’s questions as fully as you can. Uveitis is usually diagnosed and treated based on your:

  • Medical history
  • Symptoms
  • Eye exam

The more details your doctor has, the easier it is for them to figure out what’s going on.

“Discussion is the critical piece” in the doctor-patient relationship, says Nisha Acharya, MD, director of the Uveitis and Ocular Inflammatory Disease Service at the University of California, San Francisco.

“This is a partnership,” Acharya says. “We make the treatment plan together and evaluate together. We have to have a continual discussion because we often have to change treatments.

“And people need to understand their options so they can make an educated choice.”

Make Sure Your Doctors Talk to Each Other

Depending on your situation, several doctors may be involved in your care. For example, some people with certain types of autoimmune diseases have uveitis. So they see different specialists for each.

And those doctors need to work together, Archaya says.

“Team effort is key,” she says. “We update them on how the uveitis is doing, and they keep us updated [on the other disease].

“We don’t want to just change an eye drug that [might be helping the other thing].”

Doctor-to-doctor communication is just as important for other health problems commonly associated with uveitis, such as:
 

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Herpes zoster (shingles)

Have the Talk With Your Eye Doctor

Uveitis is a group of at least 30 different disorders. Most can take your sight if they’re not treated. During office visits, be open and frank with your doctor. You should have lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask things like:

What type of uveitis do I have? Uveitis can show up in the front (anterior uveitis), middle (intermediate uveitis), and back (posterior uveitis) of your eye. Sometimes, it happens in all three at once (panuveitis).

Anterior uveitis is the most common type and the easiest to treat. Posterior and panuveitis are more severe and usually need stronger medicine.

What is infectious uveitis? An infection such as TB, herpes, or Lyme disease can sometimes cause uveitis. When the infection clears up, the eye problems usually go away, too.

How long until my symptoms get better? Sometimes uveitis goes away and never comes back, Acharya says. Some people go years without another flare. But others have a chronic form of uveitis and need long-term treatment. Your medical history and exam can often show the type you have.

Why do I have to take corticosteroids? Don’t they cause bad side effects? “Uveitis is an active inflammation. Corticosteroids work faster than anything else to get it under control,”  Acharya explains.

Another reason? Until it’s certain your disease is chronic, it’s better to start with a short-acting steroid than something that lasts longer. Steroids can have serious side effects, so you only take them for a brief time.

“We try to [get people off] oral steroids within 3 to 4 months. Drops can be tapered in 6 to 8 weeks,” Acharya says.

What other treatments are there? After steroids, your doctor may prescribe a medicine that suppresses your immune system. This might be an antimetabolite like methotrexate or a calcineurin inhibitor. According to Douglas Jabs, MD, professor of ophthalmology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, people can safely take these medicines for up to 7 years.

If you have severe symptoms, powerful drugs called biologics may be an option. These target cells or chemicals in your body that are involved in inflammation.

What are the side effects of immune-suppressing treatments? Be sure you know the side effects of every medicine you take. You might notice them when you start a new medicine, the dose changes, or you stop treatment. Report any side effects to your doctor right away.

Do uveitis treatments work? For most people, yes. Your doctor can tell you more about your case.

What is a steroid implant? Would it work for me? This is a small capsule a surgeon places inside your eye. It slowly releases a low dose of steroids for 2 to 3 years. At first, it may work faster than other steroids. But Pauline Merrill, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, warns about side effects.

“There is a significant risk of glaucoma and cataracts,” she says. “About 30% of people [with implants] may need glaucoma surgery.”

Will I go blind? Uveitis is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. But you can preserve your sight by getting medical care as soon as you notice symptoms such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Redness

Choose an ophthalmologist with lots of experience in treating uveitis. Primary care doctors and optometrists don’t have the tools to diagnose and treat it.

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WebMD Voices

Kat C., 36
Broomfield, CO
Skip the ER or urgent care and go straight to an ophthalmologist whenever you have concerns. Get comfortable with your doctor, get used to eye exams with the SLIT scope, IOP [intraocular pressure] tests, and learn how to properly use eye drops so they don’t drip down your nasal passages and wreak havoc.
Ashley L., 41
Memphis, TN
Things will get more manageable over time -- you’ll start to recognize your symptoms prior to the flares. That makes it easier to manage your flares in a quick and timely manner, so they don’t last as long.
Amanda L., 38
Atlanta
I have had many flare-ups over the years. I have taken oral steroids, topical steroid eye drops, dilation drops, and injections in my eye. The best advice I can give is to find a great ophthalmologist that will work with you.
Libby S., 35
St. Petersburg, FL
Speak up when things don't feel right with your body. My vision went from excellent to blurry and weird practically overnight. After my conjunctive uveitis diagnosis, I was treated by a special laser to help strengthen my retina. And now, 10 years later, I’m still symptom-free.
Kat C., 36
Broomfield, CO
Uveitis may be lifelong, but it’s manageable. It’s normal to feel helpless and depressed. People around you can’t fully understand the pain, fear, and distress of this condition. Just know you are not alone, and there are even support groups and organizations you can join for free.
Sharon G., 64
Abingdon, VA
Uveitis is a chronic condition, so you need to have a good relationship with your retinal specialist and ophthalmologist and keep all your appointments. If you have any flare-up of symptoms, no matter how small, have it checked out immediately.
Ashley L., 41
Memphis, TN
I did a year of yo-yoing with eyedrops and attempting slow tapers with no success. I finally found my answer in an injectable biologic therapy to manage my now chronic anterior uveitis. I will likely always carry emergency steroid and IOP-lowering drops on me at ALL times, which is a good idea for anyone dealing with uveitis.
Amanda L., 38
Atlanta
I have a prepared kit that is prescribed by my ophthalmologist that I carry with me all the time. If a flare starts, I go ahead and dilate, start my steroid drops, and call my doctor. I don’t recommend doing any of these things without consulting your ophthalmologist first.
Meg R., 50
Tyler, TX
In retrospect, even as a physician, I didn’t understand just how much damage uveitis was doing to me, in part because my symptoms were not always typical. Unlike many people with uveitis, my eye rarely turned red. I knew the attacks were happening primarily by vision changes and most importantly the headaches.
Sharon G., 64
Abingdon, VA
One thing I discovered through my uveitis treatments is that I’m a 'steroid responder,' meaning that instead of helping eye pressure, steroids actually make my eye pressure worse. Figuring that out wasn’t a fun process. But in the end, I think it helped me see that when it comes to my uveitis, the more honest communication with my eye doctor, the better.
Libby S., 35
St. Petersburg, FL
The best advice I have is to be as proactive as possible in treating the disease and get a second opinion sooner than later if you feel that things are progressing, or that your doctor is not paying attention to your complaints.
Amanda L., 38
Atlanta
Don’t be discouraged if your uveitis promptly returns when you taper meds. This just means you have to develop a long-term plan to manage it.

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