Uveitis can be caused by autoimmune disorders. These diseases occur when the body's immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake. Examples are:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Behcet disease
- Reactive arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
Uveitis can also be caused by infections such as:
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis
- Herpes zoster infection
- Kawasaki disease
Exposure to toxins or injury can also cause uveitis. In many cases, the cause is unknown.
The most common form of uveitis involves inflammation in the front part of the eye. It is often called iritis because it most often only affects the iris. The iris is the colored part of the eye. In most cases, it occurs in healthy people. The disorder may affect only one eye. It is most common in young and middle-aged people.
Posterior uveitis affects the back part of the eye. It involves primarily the choroid. This is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue in the middle layer of the eye. This type of uveitis is called choroiditis. If the retina is also involved, it is called chorioretinitis.
Another form of uveitis is pars planitis. Inflammation occurs in the area called the pars plana, which is located between the iris and the choiroid. Pars planitis most often occurs in young men. It is generally not associated with any other disease. However, it may be linked to Crohn disease and possibly multiple sclerosis.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will take a complete medical history and do an eye exam. Lab tests may be done to rule out infection or a weak immune system.
If you are over age 25 and have pars planitis, your provider will suggest a brain and spine MRI. This will rule out multiple sclerosis.
Iritis (anterior uveitis) is most often mild. Treatment may involve:
- Dark glasses
- Eye drops that dilate the pupil to relieve pain
- Steroid eye drops
Pars planitis is often treated with steroid eye drops. Other medicines, including steroids taken by mouth, may be used to help suppress the immune system.
Posterior uveitis treatment depends on the underlying cause. It almost always includes steroids taken by mouth.
If the uveitis is caused by a body-wide (systemic) infection, you may be given antibiotics. You may also be given powerful anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids.
With proper treatment, most attacks of anterior uveitis go away in a few days to weeks. However, the problem often returns.
Posterior uveitis may last from months to years. It may cause permanent vision damage, even with treatment.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Symptoms that need urgent medical care are:
- Eye pain
- Reduced vision
If you have a body-wide (systemic) infection or disease, treating the condition may prevent uveitis.
Iritis; Pars planitis; Choroiditis; Chorioretinitis; Anterior uveitis; Posterior uveitis; Iridocyclitis
Durand ML. Infectious causes of uveitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 117.
Gery I, Chan C-C. Mechanisms of uveitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 7.2.
Read RW. General approach to the uveitis patient and treatment strategies. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 7.3.
Yanoff M, Cameron JD. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 423.
Review Date 8/28/2018
Updated by: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.