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What Is Uveitis?

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Updated June 13, 2014

It may sound like a condition caused by the sun's UV rays, but uveitis (yoo-vee-eye-tis) is actually an inflammation or swelling of the eye's uvea. The uvea is located in the center of the eye, between the sclera and the retina.

It is responsible for supplying blood to the retina. Uveitis is a rare disease that usually occurs in young and middle-aged people. Vision loss may occur when scars develop on the choroid and retina. The amount of vision lost depends on the amount and location of the scarring.

Causes:

In many cases of uveitis, the cause is unknown. However, it can be caused by certain autoimmune disorders, infection, or exposure to toxins.

There are three different types of uveitis, depending on the location of the inflammation.

Iritis- The most common form of uveitis, iritis is an inflammation of the iris, in the front part of the eye. It may affect only one eye.

Pars Planitis- Usually affecting young men, pars planitis is inflammation of the narrow area between the iris and the choroid, called the pars plana.

Choroiditis- Primarily involving the choroid, choroiditis affects the back part of the uvea.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of uveitis may develop suddenly. If your eye suddenly becomes red, painful, and sensitive to light, contact your doctor immediately. Common symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Redness of the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Floaters
  • Pain in the eye

Diagnosis:

An eye doctor will be able to diagnose uveitis after performing a complete eye examination. The doctor will use many diagnostic tests and ask several questions about current symptoms as well as medical history. Additional tests may be ordered, such as x-rays or MRIs, because uveitis is often caused by other medical conditions. It is important to find the underlying cause so proper treatment can be given.

Associated causes:

Uveitis may be associated with the following conditions:

  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Syphilis
  • AIDS
  • CMV retinitis or other cytomegalovirus infection
  • Trauma
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Herpes zoster infection
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Behcet syndrome
  • Psoriasis
  • Reiter syndrome

Treatment:

Treating uveitis usually consists of a prescribed steroid of some form, to reduce inflammation. Depending on the area of the uvea affected, your doctor may prescribe steroid drops, injections or pills. If you are in pain, your doctor may use dilating drops to dilate the pupil, reducing spasm of the pupillary muscles. Drops may also be prescribed to lower the pressure in your eye.

The underlying cause of the uveitis, if found, will also require treatment. Also, after reducing the inflammation, your doctor may need to prescribe treatment for secondary conditions such as scarring, glaucoma or cataracts, if they develop.

What You Should Know:

If you have symptoms of uveitis, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor, especially if there is pain or reduced vision. It is important to properly treat existing diseases as well, as this may help prevent uveitis.

Source: Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania Health System. Uveitis. 22 Aug 2007.

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