How Uveitis Is Diagnosed

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on November 09, 2022
3 min read

If you have uveitis, it means that part of your eye -- often your uvea, a section of your eye that contains your iris -- is inflamed.  With the proper care, your eye doctor can help prevent the glaucoma, cataracts, or blindness uveitis can cause.

How will your doctor know you have it? They’ll look at several things.

Many people who have uveitis go to a doctor because their eye has become red or painful. This change can be sudden or gradual. It’s worth a trip to their office if you notice:

  • Redness in your eye
  • Eye pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Floaters (dark spots that seem to float in front of your field of vision)

You’ll probably be asked for it, maybe through a questionnaire in your doctor’s office. This’ll help your eye doctor rule out other problems or confirm that you have uveitis.

If you’ve had trauma to your eye or surgery on it, you may be more likely to get uveitis. You’re also at greater risk if you have:

  • AIDS
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Shingles
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ulcerative colitis

Your doctor may:

  • Put special drops in your eyes to make your pupils bigger (they may say “dilate”). They’ll do this so they can see the inside of your eye better. It also relaxes your eye muscles and can ease the pain of uveitis. 
  • Ask you to use your eyes to follow an object that moves up and down, left and right, without turning your head
  • Have you read an eye chart
  • Test your peripheral (side) vision

Your doctor may use special tools to check that the pressure within your eye is healthy and that fluids are able to drain out of your eyes well. You may hear them call it a “tonometry test.”

Eyes with uveitis become inflamed. So your doctor will check for swelling and inflammation in each eye. They may use something called a slit lamp microscope. It shines a tiny bit of light into one eye at a time while making the inner structures of your eye appear larger.

They might want to look at the blood vessels in your uvea, since they may be inflamed. Your doctor may inject you with a special dye that glows green in fluorescent light. The dye goes into a vein in your arm. Once it reaches your eye, the doctor can take a picture of your lit-up blood vessels. If they’re damaged or inflamed, your doctor will see it.

Some things that cause uveitis can show up in a blood test. If you find out you have a condition that needs to be treated by someone other than an eye doctor, you’ll get a referral.

In some cases, your doctor may order tests like an MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or even a skin test to find the cause of your uveitis. If these tests find that another disease is causing it, your eye doctor should send you to a specialist for a follow-up.