What is uveitis?

Uveitis is inflammation of eye tissues, including the retina, lens, optic nerve, and the vitreous (gel-like filling inside the eyeball). It may be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic), occur on its own, or be related to an inflammatory condition elsewhere in the body. Depending in the location and stage of uveitis, it can slightly impair vision or lead to severe vision loss.

  • Anterior uveitis is swelling near the front of the eye and is the most common type.
  • Intermediate uveitis develops in the middle of the eye, often the vitreous.
  • Posterior uveitis is the least common type and develops in the back of the eye, often affecting the retina and choroid.
  • Pan-uveitis. In the most severe cases, all three layers of the eye are involved.

Intermediate, posterior, and pan-uveitis are the most serious forms of the disease and can cause blindness if not treated.

What causes uveitis?

Uveitis may be caused by:

  • Toxins that get inside the eye
  • Injury, such as a bruise to the eye
  • An attack from the body’s own immune system (autoimmune disorder), such as sarcoidosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or ulcerative colitis
  • Infections or tumors in the eye or elsewhere in the body, such as AIDS, cytomegalovirus, herpes zoster, histoplasmosis, syphilis, or tuberculosis

What are the symptoms of uveitis?

The symptoms of uveitis differ by type. You may experience:

  • Eye pain (typically only with anterior uveitis)
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Decreased or blurry vision
  • An increase in floaters (seeing “cobwebs” or squiggly lines darting about in front of your eyes)
  • Eye redness

How is uveitis diagnosed?

After a thorough examination and recording of your medical history, your doctor may order lab tests to rule out an infection or autoimmune disorder. Some patients also have a central nervous system evaluation. An eye care professional will assess your vision and perform a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The results of all of these tests will be analyzed to determine if your symptoms are due to uveitis, and if so, what type.

Can uveitis be treated?

It is important for uveitis to be treated to reduce symptoms, prevent further tissue damage, and restore any vision loss. Your treatment depends on what type of uveitis you have and may include:

  • Corticosteroid eye drops and injections around or inside the eye to reduce inflammation
  • Oral steroids to reduce inflammation
  • Immunosuppressive drugs such as methotrexate, mycophenolate, azathioprine, or cyclosporine to tamp down the inflammation-causing immune response
  • Biologic drugs such as adalimumab, infliximab, daclizumab, abatacept, or rituximab, which also target the immune system