Ocular immunology

Ocular immunology

Ocular immunology is a highly specialised branch of medicine devoted to diagnosing and treating patients with inflammatory eye diseases. These diseases can slightly reduce vision or lead to severe vision loss.

Ophthalmologists use the general term, uveitis, when referring to the range of inflammatory diseases that affect the uvea. In addition, uveitis is used to describe any inflammatory disease that produces swelling and destroys eye tissues, including within the retina. It’s commonly associated with systemic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Anatomically, uveitis is classified into anterior, intermediate, posterior, and panuveitic forms, depending on which part of the eye is affected. No matter the classification, Sabates Eye Centers can handle it all.

Causes of Uveitis

Many different things can cause uveitis. In some cases the cause is unknown, or in doctor language, ‘idiopathic.’ The body’s immune system may be a cause. Bruising, infections, tumors and toxins can cause eye pain, sensitivity to light, poor vision, and increased floaters

Patients with the following diseases carry a higher risk of developing uveitis:

  • AIDS
  • CMV retinitis
  • Herpes zoster infection
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ulcerative colitis

Treating Uveitis

In open-angle glaucoma, the angle in your eye where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be, but the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time, causing an increase in internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve. It is the most common type of glaucoma, many of whom do not know they have the disease.

The two most common uveitis diseases are toxoplasmosis and birdshot retinochoroidopathy.

Toxoplasmosis (a form of posterior uveitis) affects the retina, the light-sensitive cells lining the back of the eye. Both eyes are usually involved. If the infection settles in the macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision, good vision is lost forever.

When toxoplasmosis heals, it leaves a scar. The infection may recur years later, sometimes near the previously infected area. Swelling that fights the infection may cause floating spots in one’s vision; red, painful eyes; and poor vision.


Treating toxoplasmosis with oral medications can be very effective. Screening tests can identify women of childbearing age who are at risk of passing the infection to an unborn child.

When contracted by a pregnant woman, toxoplasmosis can pose serious risks to the unborn baby. Pregnant women should avoid handling litter boxes and eating raw meat because the parasite may originate in cat faeces or undercooked meat. If acquired during the first trimester of pregnancy, the infection can be devastating to an infant.

Birdshot retinochoroidopathy

Birdshot retinochoroidopathy is a rare form of bilateral posterior uveitis of the retina and choroid, the layer of blood vessels under the retina. The cause of BR is unknown. It usually affects both eyes. Symptoms are poor vision, night blindness, and disturbance of color vision. Pain is rare.

Fluorescein angiography, a test for evaluating the retina and choroid, detects BR’s characteristic cream-colored spots, similar in appearance to the splattered pattern of birdshot from a shotgun.