What Is Uveitis?
Uveitis is swelling of the middle layer of the eye, which is
called the uvea. It may occur from both infectious and non-infectious causes. The
uvea supplies blood to the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive part of
the eye that focuses the images you see and sends them to the brain. It’s normally
red due to its blood supply from the uvea.
The condition usually isn’t serious. More severe cases of uveitis
can cause vision loss if not treated early.
What Are the
Symptoms of Uveitis?
The following symptoms may occur in one or both eyes:
- severe redness in the eye
- floaters, which are dark floating spots in your
- light sensitivity
- blurred vision
The cause of uveitis is often unknown and frequently occurs in
otherwise healthy people. It can sometimes be associated with another illness
such as an autoimmune
disorder or an infection from a virus or bacteria.
An autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system attacks a
part of your body. These conditions include:
Infections are another cause of uveitis, including
Other potential causes of uveitis include:
- exposure to a toxin that penetrates the eye
How Is Uveitis
Your eye surgeon, also called an ophthalmologist, will examine
your eye and take a complete health history.
They may also order certain laboratory tests to rule out an
infection or autoimmune disorder. Your ophthalmologist may refer you to another
specialist if they suspect an underlying condition is causing your uveitis.
Types of Uveitis
There are many types of uveitis. Each type is classified by where
the inflammation occurs in the eye.
Anterior Uveitis (Front of the Eye)
Anterior uveitis is often referred to as “iritis” because it
affects the iris. The iris is the colored part of the eye near the front.
Iritis is the most common type of uveitis and generally occurs in healthy
people. It can affect one eye, or it may affect both eyes at once. Iritis is
usually the least serious type of uveitis.
Intermediate Uveitis (Middle of the Eye)
Intermediate uveitis involves the middle part of the eye and is
also called iridocyclitis. The word “intermediate” in the name refers to the location of the
inflammation and not the severity of the inflammation. The middle part of the
eye includes the pars plana, which is the part of the eye between the iris and
the choroid. This type of uveitis may occur in otherwise healthy people, but it
has been linked to some autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Posterior Uveitis (Back of the Eye)
Posterior uveitis may also be referred to as choroiditis because
it affects the choroid. The tissue and blood vessels of the choroid are
important because they deliver blood to the back of the eye. This type of
uveitis usually occurs in people with an infection from a virus, parasite, or
fungus. It can also occur in people with an autoimmune disease. Posterior
uveitis tends to be more serious than anterior uveitis because it can cause
scarring in the retina. The retina is a layer of cells in the back of the eye. Posterior
uveitis is the least common form of uveitis.
Pan-Uveitis (All Parts of the Eye)
When the inflammation affects all major parts of the eye, it’s
called pan-uveitis. It often involves a combination of features and symptoms
from all three types of uveitis.
How Is Uveitis
Treatment for uveitis depends on the cause and the type of
uveitis. Usually, it’s treated with eye drops. If uveitis is caused by another
condition, treating that underlying condition may eliminate the uveitis. The
goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in the eye.
The following are treatment options for each type of uveitis:
- Treatment for anterior uveitis, or iritis, includes
dark glasses, eye drops to dilate the pupil and reduce pain, and steroid eye
drops to reduce inflammation or irritation.
- Treatment for posterior uveitis may include steroids
taken by mouth and visits to additional specialists to treat the infection or
autoimmune disease. A body-wide infection is usually treated with antibiotics
- Treatment for intermediate uveitis includes steroid
eye drops and steroids taken by mouth.
Severe cases of uveitis may require drugs that suppress the
Complications from Uveitis
Untreated uveitis can lead to serious complications, including:
- cataracts, which is a
clouding of the lens or cornea
- fluid in the retina
- glaucoma, which is high
pressure in the eye
- retinal detachment,
which is an eye emergency
- a loss of vision
Recovery and Outlook
Uveitis will typically go away within a few days with treatment.
Uveitis that affects the back of the eye, or posterior uveitis, typically heals
more slowly than uveitis that affects the front of the eye. Relapses are
Posterior uveitis due to another condition may last for months
and can cause permanent vision damage.
How Can Uveitis Be
Seeking proper treatment for an autoimmune disease or infection
can help to prevent uveitis. Uveitis in otherwise healthy people is difficult
to prevent since the cause isn’t known.
Early detection and treatment are important to reduce the risk of
vision loss, which can be permanent.