Inflammation in the back of the eye is estimated to cause up to 10 percent of all cases of blindness. When the choroid and retina in the eye become inflamed, the condition is known as chorioretinitis.
Anatomy of the Eye
The inner lining of the eye is a light-sensitive layer of tissue known as the retina. The retina receives images that pass into the eye through the lens and converts them to electric signals that are sent to the brain. The outer layer of the eye is the white portion known as the sclera. Sandwiched between the sclera and the retina is the choroid – a layer of blood vessels that supply nutrients to the retina and other parts of the back of the eye.
If the choroid layer of the eye becomes inflamed, the condition is known as choroiditis. If both the retina and choroid are inflamed, the condition is called chorioretinis. These conditions along with other types of inflammation in the back of the eye can also be called uveitis.
Chorioretinitis is often associated with other conditions affecting the entire body, not just the eyes. People with these conditions may be at higher risk for chorioretinis or other forms of uveitis:
• Infections including syphilis and tuberculosis
• Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, or HIV/AIDS
• Eye injury
• Exposure to toxins including acids and some pesticides
Chorioretinitis can also occur with no apparent cause, and some cases appear to be the result of an infection that took place many years prior to the inflammation in the eye.
Chorioretinitis shares the same symptoms with a variety of other eye conditions. These symptoms may or may not mean that you have chorioretinitis. See your eye care professional if you have:
• Eye pain
• Eye redness
• Blurred vision
• Floaters in your vision
• New sensitivity to light
• Excessive tearing
Depending on the cause and severity of the inflammation, chorioretinitis can cause permanent damage to vision if left untreated. If the cause of the inflammation is known, treatment may focus on correcting that problem. The overall goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in the eyes.
• Anti-inflammatories– Medications such as corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling. They may be given in the form of eye drops, but chorioretinitis usually requires treatment in the form of pills or injections in the eye. To treat chronic cases, Bausch & Lomb has developed a drug implant known as retisert which consists of a tiny drug reservoir that can be implanted in the back of the eye to deliver sustained doses of medication lasting over two years.
• Antibiotics – Medications to treat infections including antibiotic and antiviral drugs may be used to treat inflammation caused by infection
• Immunosuppressants – These medications may be used if corticosteroids are not able to control the inflammation.
Left untreated, chorioretinitis can last for months or years and can cause permanent vision damage. Be sure to see your eye care professional if you have any unusual symptoms with your eyes or vision.