How Uveitis Is Diagnosed

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.

Symptoms

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)

Health History

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

Eye Exam

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.
  • 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

Eye Pressure Check

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.”

A Closer Look

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.

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Special Dye

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.

Blood Tests

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.

Other Tests

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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on October 16, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

The Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation: “Glossary of terms.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Uveitis treatment.”

National Eye Institute: “Facts about uveitis.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Uveitis symptoms.”

Prevent Blindness: “How do eye doctors check for uveitis?”

Kellogg Eye Center, Michigan Medicine: “Uveitis (iritis).”

National Eye Institute: “Emerging technologies look deeper into the eyes to catch signs of disease.”

American Journal of Ophthalmology: “Patterns of laboratory testing utilization among uveitis specialists.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Uveitis diagnosis.”

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