person in eye exam
1 / 13

What Is Uveitis?

It's a catch-all term for a group of inflammatory diseases that affect mostly the middle part of your eye, called the uvea. The main symptom is swelling, but you may have redness and pain, too. Uveitis can destroy eye tissue, so it’s important to see your eye doctor at the first sign of a problem.

Swipe to advance
veins in eye
2 / 13

What Causes It?

Uveitis may be caused by a bruise or diseases like AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, syphilis, and tuberculosis. In many cases, the cause isn't known. 

Swipe to advance
shoe and cane of blind man
3 / 13

It's Serious

If not treated, uveitis can lead to severe eye problems, including blindness. It’s one of the leading causes of loss of sight among working-age people. Uveitis can also lead to things like cataracts, glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve, and detachment of the retina, a thin tissue that lines the back of your eye.

Swipe to advance
uvea illustration
4 / 13

What Is the Uvea?

The uvea is the colored "inner tube" of the eye. It includes:

  • The choroid. It's a group of blood vessels underneath the retina.
  • The ciliary body. This makes your eye fluid. (Your eye doctor might call it “aqueous.”)
  • The iris. It surrounds the pupil and controls how much light goes into your eye.
Swipe to advance
uveitis close up
5 / 13

What Does It Feel Like?

Your vision could get blurry. You might have redness and pain. It could come on slowly, or you could just wake up with it one morning. It could be in one or both eyes. It usually affects your uvea, but it can hit any part of your eye, including the cornea (the clear covering in the front of your eye), or the white part, called the sclera.

Swipe to advance
floaters in persons's vision
6 / 13

What Else to Look For

You may have:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • “Floaters” in your vision 
  • A whitish spot called a hypopyon on the lower part of your eye 

If light bothers you, or you have eye pain or any change in vision, see your eye doctor right away. 

Swipe to advance
old woman's eye in mirror
7 / 13

Who Gets It?

People of all ages can have it. It’s slightly more common among women. It does crop up more as you age, and it’s more likely to affect more parts of your eyes as you get older.

Swipe to advance
eye doctor
8 / 13

There’s More Than One Kind

  • Anterior uveitis is in the front of your eye. 
  • Intermediate uveitis is in the middle.
  • Posterior uveitis is in the back.
  • Panuveitis affects the whole eye.

The last three are more serious.

Swipe to advance
man with pink eye
9 / 13

Is It the Same as Pinkeye?

Your eye could be pink if you have uveitis. But pinkeye, also called conjunctivitis, isn’t the same thing. Pinkeye is a common condition you get in the lining and white of your eye. It’s often brought on by allergies, viruses, or bacteria. Uveitis is rare and happens inside your eye. Only about 38 of every 100,000 people have it.

Swipe to advance
doctor writring prescription
10 / 13

Can I Prevent It?

Some medicines seem to be able to stop some types of uveitis from coming back (for example, methotrexate works for some people who have anterior uveitis). Prevention, though, is tricky. No one knows exactly what causes it.  An eye exam and your medical history can help your doctor find other diseases you may have that could be the cause. Treating that disease may help your uveitis.

Swipe to advance
couple relaxing on lawn
11 / 13

Is It Contagious?

No. But some of the diseases that are associated with it can be spread. So you don’t have to worry about catching uveitis from someone. But you need to be careful about some of the conditions that might lead to it.

Swipe to advance
man looking into slit lamp
12 / 13

How Do I Find Out If I Have It?

An eye exam will happen first. Your eye doctor will also ask about your medical history. Next, they may:

  • Have you look at an eye chart
  • Order blood tests
  • Dilate your eyes so they can look inside
  • Take an ocular pressure reading. It looks for another eye condition called glaucoma.
  • Give you a slit lamp exam. This will give them a 3D look at different parts of your eye. It’ll help them spot signs of inflammation.
Swipe to advance
woman using eye drops
13 / 13

How Is It Treated?

Anti-inflammatory medicines are often the first step. They’re usually eye drops or ointment. You may also get pills or injections because neither drops nor ointment will reach the middle or back of the eye.

The goal is to treat the inflammation. After that’s taken care of, you’ll need to get your eyes checked regularly to prevent damage and loss of vision.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/16/2018 Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on October 16, 2018


1) Getty Images

2) Getty Images

3) Getty Images

4) Getty Images

5) Getty Images

6) Wikimedia

7) Getty Images

8) Getty Images

9) Getty Images

10) Getty Images

11) Getty Images

12) Getty Images

13) Getty Images


SOURCES: “Choroid.”

National Eye Institute: “Facts About Uveitis.”

Vision Aware: “Eye Health: Anatomy of the Eye.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “What is Uveitis?”

Prevent Blindness: “Uveitis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Uveitis.”

CDC: “Pink Eye: Usually Mild and Easy to Treat.”

The Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation: “Guide for Teachers and Parents.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Wilmer Eye Institute: “Eye Infections.”

Muñoz-Fernández, S. Eye, Aug. 8, 2008.

Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on October 16, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.


WebMD Voices

Kat C., 36
Broomfield, CO
Skip the ER or urgent care and go straight to an ophthalmologist whenever you have concerns. Get comfortable with your doctor, get used to eye exams with the SLIT scope, IOP [intraocular pressure] tests, and learn how to properly use eye drops so they don’t drip down your nasal passages and wreak havoc.
Ashley L., 41
Memphis, TN
Things will get more manageable over time -- you’ll start to recognize your symptoms prior to the flares. That makes it easier to manage your flares in a quick and timely manner, so they don’t last as long.
Amanda L., 38
I have had many flare-ups over the years. I have taken oral steroids, topical steroid eye drops, dilation drops, and injections in my eye. The best advice I can give is to find a great ophthalmologist that will work with you.
Libby S., 35
St. Petersburg, FL
Speak up when things don't feel right with your body. My vision went from excellent to blurry and weird practically overnight. After my conjunctive uveitis diagnosis, I was treated by a special laser to help strengthen my retina. And now, 10 years later, I’m still symptom-free.
Kat C., 36
Broomfield, CO
Uveitis may be lifelong, but it’s manageable. It’s normal to feel helpless and depressed. People around you can’t fully understand the pain, fear, and distress of this condition. Just know you are not alone, and there are even support groups and organizations you can join for free.
Sharon G., 64
Abingdon, VA
Uveitis is a chronic condition, so you need to have a good relationship with your retinal specialist and ophthalmologist and keep all your appointments. If you have any flare-up of symptoms, no matter how small, have it checked out immediately.
Ashley L., 41
Memphis, TN
I did a year of yo-yoing with eyedrops and attempting slow tapers with no success. I finally found my answer in an injectable biologic therapy to manage my now chronic anterior uveitis. I will likely always carry emergency steroid and IOP-lowering drops on me at ALL times, which is a good idea for anyone dealing with uveitis.
Amanda L., 38
I have a prepared kit that is prescribed by my ophthalmologist that I carry with me all the time. If a flare starts, I go ahead and dilate, start my steroid drops, and call my doctor. I don’t recommend doing any of these things without consulting your ophthalmologist first.
Meg R., 50
Tyler, TX
In retrospect, even as a physician, I didn’t understand just how much damage uveitis was doing to me, in part because my symptoms were not always typical. Unlike many people with uveitis, my eye rarely turned red. I knew the attacks were happening primarily by vision changes and most importantly the headaches.
Sharon G., 64
Abingdon, VA
One thing I discovered through my uveitis treatments is that I’m a 'steroid responder,' meaning that instead of helping eye pressure, steroids actually make my eye pressure worse. Figuring that out wasn’t a fun process. But in the end, I think it helped me see that when it comes to my uveitis, the more honest communication with my eye doctor, the better.
Libby S., 35
St. Petersburg, FL
The best advice I have is to be as proactive as possible in treating the disease and get a second opinion sooner than later if you feel that things are progressing, or that your doctor is not paying attention to your complaints.
Amanda L., 38
Don’t be discouraged if your uveitis promptly returns when you taper meds. This just means you have to develop a long-term plan to manage it.

From WebMD

More on an Inflamed Eye