Uveitis is a broad term for many problems with your eye. What they have in common is eye inflammation and swelling that can destroy eye tissues. That destruction can lead to poor vision or blindness.

The word “uveitis” is used because the swelling most often affects the part of your eye called the uvea.

Your eye is made of layers. The uvea is the middle layer.  It’s between the white part of your eye -- called the sclera -- and the inner layers of your eye.

Your uvea contains three important structures:

The iris. That’s the colored circle at the front of your eye.

The ciliary body. Its job is to help your lens focus and make the fluid that nourishes the inside of your eye.

The choroid. This is a group of blood vessels that give your retina the nutrients it needs.

Are There Different Types of Uveitis?

Yes. Which type you have depends on where the swelling is.

  • Anterior uveitis is the most common. It affects the front of your eye.
  • Intermediate uveitis affects your ciliary body.
  • Posterior uveitis affects the back of your eye.
  • If your entire uvea is inflamed, you have panuveitis.

What Causes It?

Many things, and they’re all tied to inflammation.

For example, a toxic substance could get into your eye and cause inflammation. So could a bruise to your eye.

Uveitis may also be caused by an autoimmune disease, meaning your body is attacking itself. That attack causes inflammation, and so do infections and tumors in your eye or other parts of your body.

Are Some People at Greater Risk?

Folks with certain gene combinations and those who smoke seem to be at greater risk.

Some diseases also increase the chances, including:

  • AIDS
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Behcet’s disease
  • CMV retinitis
  • Herpes zoster infection
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Syphilis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease

Symptoms

They can affect one or both eyes, and they may come on quickly. In some cases, they happen more gradually.

The warning signs include:

  • Eye redness
  • Pain
  • Blurry or lessened vision and sensitivity to light
  • Floaters, those tiny dots or specks in your vision

If you have any of these, it’s important to see your eye doctor. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help save your vision.

Diagnosis

Your eye doctor will want to know about your medical history and overall health. This is because uveitis can be a result of other diseases. They may order blood tests, skin tests, or X-rays. They’ll also give you a thorough eye exam.

Treatment

The first step may be eye drops that have medicine -- usually a corticosteroid -- to fight inflammation. You might get dilating eye drops to prevent scarring and cut eye twitches. If the drops don’t work, your doctor may add a pill or injection.

If an infection causes your uveitis, you’ll get other drugs, too. These infection fighters include antibiotics and antivirals.

If you don’t get better with those treatments, or if your uveitis is severe, your doctor may prescribe stronger drugs. These drugs may include immunosuppressives. Those dampen your immune system. You’d use them with corticosteroids.

If you have anterior uveitis, your doctor will probably prescribe eye drops at first. If you have intermediate, posterior, or panuveitis, they may give you injections, oral medications, or an immunosuppressive drug. They could also suggest an implantable device that slowly releases medication.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove some of the gel-like substance in your eye. You may hear them call it vitreous.
 

Treatment is important and can prevent serious complications. Make sure you report any new symptom to your doctor, and go to your follow-up visits as your doctor says.

WebMD Medical Reference

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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
Atlanta
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
Atlanta
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
Atlanta
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.

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