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Uveitis - inflammation of the eye

Uveitis is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, which consists of the coloured part of the eye (the iris), the ring of muscles behind the iris (ciliary body), and the later of tissue supporting the retina (the choroid).

The condition is not common, but is a leading cause of vision loss in the UK.

Medical advice should be sought about uveitis symptoms so it can be diagnosed and treatment started as quickly as possible.

Symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Eye redness and irritation
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Floating spots before the eyes

Uveitis may develop rapidly, and it is very important that you see an ophthalmologist for a complete eye examination if you develop these symptoms, especially if a painful, red eye does not clear up quickly.

Left untreated, uveitis may permanently damage your vision.

What causes uveitis?

Uveitis has many potential causes, including infection with a virus, fungus, bacteria or parasite, inflammatory disease affecting other parts of the body, or injury to the eye.

The most common types of uveitis are:

  • Anterior uveitis: The most common type, with inflammation of the iris, called iritis, or inflammation of the iris and the ciliary body, called iridocyclitis.
  • Intermediate uveitis: Affecting the area around and behind the ciliary body
  • Posterior uveitis: Affecting the area at the back of the eye, the choroid and the retina
  • Panuveitis: This is when uveitis affects the front and back of the eye.

How is uveitis diagnosed?

Uveitis can permanently damage your eyesight and even cause blindness. Therefore, if you have any symptoms of uveitis, is very important for you to seek medical advice right away.

If your doctor suspects that you have uveitis, he or she will be likely to refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for further examination. He or she may order laboratory tests including blood tests or X-rays.

Uveitis may have an underlying cause elsewhere in your body, so the ophthalmologist may want to talk with your GP or a specialist to evaluate your overall medical health.

How is uveitis treated?

Because uveitis is serious, treatment needs to begin right away. For uveitis not caused by an infection, your ophthalmologist may prescribe eye drops containing steroids to reduce swelling and medication to relieve pain. Antibiotics are used in patients with infectious uveitis. Dark glasses will help with light sensitivity.

Complications of uveitis may include glaucoma, cataracts, abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes that interfere with vision, fluid within the retina and vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 23, 2014

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