Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Eye Health Center

Font Size

Eye Health and Uveitis

Uveitis (pronounced you-vee-EYE-tis) is basically an internal inflammation of the eye. The condition involves the middle layers of the eye, also called the uveal tract or uvea. The uvea includes the iris (colored part of the eye), choroid (a thin membrane containing many blood vessels), and the ciliary body (the part of the eye that joins these together).

The uvea is very important because its many veins and arteries transport blood to the parts of the eye that are critical for vision.

Recommended Related to Eye Health

Reading in Dim Light

Q: My daughter loves to read by a dim light at night. Isn’t it true that this could damage her eyes? A: Conventional wisdom claims that reading in the dark wrecks the eyes. But children everywhere who love to read at night under the covers can rejoice, because this myth is FALSE. Dim light might make it difficult for the eyes to focus, which can cause short-term eye fatigue, says Richard Gans, MD, FACS, an ophthalmologist with the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute. "But there is...

Read the Reading in Dim Light article > >

Learn more about the structures that make up the eye in the article titled "The Amazing Human Eye."

What Are the Symptoms of Uveitis?

Symptoms of uveitis may include:

  • Eye redness and irritation
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Floating spots before the eyes

Uveitis may develop rapidly, and it is very important that you see your eye doctor for a complete eye exam if you develop these symptoms, especially if a painful, red eye does not clear up quickly.

Left untreated, uveitis may permanently damage your vision.

What Causes Uveitis?

Uveitis has many potential causes, including infection with a virus. Other potential causes include fungus, bacteria, parasite, inflammatory disease affecting other parts of the body, or injury to the eye.

There are four types of uveitis:

  • Iritis is the most common form of uveitis. It affects the iris and is often associated with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or sarcoidosis. Iritis may develop suddenly and may last weeks, even with treatment. Rare cases are chronic and require close, long- term monitoring.
  • Cyclitis is an inflammation of the middle portion of the eye and may affect the muscle that focuses the lens. This also may develop suddenly and last several months.
  • Retinitis affects the back of the eye. It may be rapidly progressive, making it difficult to treat. Retinitis may be caused by viruses such as shingles or herpes and bacterial infections such as syphilis or toxoplasmosis.
  • Choroiditis is an inflammation of the layer beneath the retina. It may also be caused by an infection such as tuberculosis.

Retinitis and choroiditis can each be caused by an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. In a large number of cases, the cause of uveitis is not known. Stress is sometimes suspected since the inflammation is triggered by the body's immune system.

How Is Uveitis Diagnosed?

Uveitis can permanently damage your eyesight and even cause blindness. Therefore, if you have any symptoms of uveitis, is very important for you to see an eye specialist right away.

The eye specialist will perform a careful exam of your eyes. He or she may order lab tests -- including blood work or X-rays -- since the list of possible causes can be long.

Uveitis may have an underlying cause elsewhere in your body, and the eye specialist may want to talk with your regular health care provider or another specialist to evaluate your overall health.

How Is Uveitis Treated?

Because uveitis is serious, treatment needs to begin right away. For uveitis not caused by an infection, your eye specialist may prescribe eye drops containing steroids to reduce swelling and drugs to relieve pain. Antibiotics are used in patients with infectious uveitis. Dark glasses will help with light sensitivity.

Complications of uveitis may include glaucoma, cataracts, abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes that interfere with vision, fluid within the retina, and vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment by an eye specialist is critical.


 

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on November 06, 2013

Today on WebMD

businesswoman wearing fun eyeglasses
Slideshow
Pink Eye Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Slideshow
grilled salmon and spinach
Video
 

Understanding Stye
Article
human eye
Article
 
eye
Video
eye exam timing
Video
 

vision test
Tool
is vision correction surgery for you
Article
 
high tech contacts
Article
eye drop
Article
 

Special Sections