Uveitis is an inflammatory disease affecting the inside of the eye, causing pain and affecting your vision. Uveitis can be treated, most often with steroids. It can affect people with autoimmune diseases, but there are other causes of uveitis, such as infection, eye injury, and cancer. Because it can affect your sight, it's important to get medical advice if you experience symptoms.
Symptoms of uveitis
The symptoms of uveitis can be different depending on the type of uveitis you have. Key signs include eye pain, vision changes such as blurry or distorted vision and seeing floaters, light sensitivity, and redness.
These symptoms may develop suddenly or over time in one or both eyes. It's important to contact your doctor or optician as soon as you notice any changes to your eye health or vision.
Uveitis in children
Uveitis isn't common in children, but causes include autoimmune illnesses, infection, and eye injury, though sometimes a cause can't be found.
Children can't always describe problems with their sight, and symptoms may not be obvious. Be aware of them developing light sensitivity and red eyes. Above all, ensure your child has regular eye tests. These can detect many conditions, including uveitis before symptoms develop.
After a uveitis diagnosis, the most common treatment is a course of steroids. Steroids support the immune system to reverse the inflammation causing uveitis.
The type of steroid you receive depends on the type of uveitis. Eye drops are typically given for uveitis at the front of the eye, but a steroid injection may be used. Steroid tablets may be required for uveitis towards the back of the eye (intermediate, posterior and panuveitis). In rarer cases, surgery may be necessary.
Causes of uveitis
Uveitis happens when there is inflammation in the eye. The causes of this vary, although in up to half of cases, no underlying reason is found (known as 'idiopathic' or ‘undifferentiated’). Some causes of uveitis include:
How is uveitis diagnosed?
An ophthalmologist can make a uveitis diagnosis with a thorough eye exam. This may also include questions about your eye health and your family history. Because uveitis can be linked to diseases elsewhere in your body, they may ask detailed questions about your general health. The most common tests used to diagnose uveitis are:
- A visual acuity test
- Eye pressure test
- A Fundoscopic exam
- A slit lamp exam
Uveitis affects the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea or uveal tract. There are different types of uveitis, based on exactly which parts of the eye are affected. The early symptoms of uveitis to be aware of are:
- Eye pain or redness in the eye
- A change in vision (including blurred vision, seeing floaters)
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
When to get medical advice
Getting a prompt uveitis diagnosis is essential, so you can get treatment that can prevent loss of vision.
If you're worried about your vision, see an optician or your GP as soon as you can. High-street opticians have the equipment and skills to identify eye disease, and can direct you to further care if necessary. If you have a rapid onset of deteriorating vision, many eye departments have an emergency walk-in service or can be accessed through accident and emergency.
Living with uveitis
If uveitis isn't treated promptly, it can lead to other eye problems and possible sight loss. There is support to help you make the most of your vision if you do experience these complications.
For some people, the condition can be recurrent or last for a long time, especially if you have an underlying autoimmune disease.
Frequently asked questions
Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 18/10/2022
Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.