Uveitis is a group of inflammatory eye diseases that can damage eye tissue and may cause vision loss.

Uveitis refers to a group of eye diseases characterized by inflammation of one or more layers of the eye. If left untreated, uveitis can damage eye tissue and may cause vision loss or even blindness. It’s known as uveitis because many of these conditions affect the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, which is located between the retina at the back and the sclera (white of the eye) at the front. The uvea itself contains three parts:

  • Iris, or colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil
  • Ciliary body
  • Choroid

Types of uveitis

However, despite the name, uveitis is not always limited to the uvea. There are several types of uveitis, defined by where they occur in the eye:

  • Anterior uveitis: Also known as iritis, this condition affects the uvea’s iris. Iritis is the most common form of uveitis, and typically is the least severe.
  • Intermediate uveitis: Also known as pars planitis, this type of uveitis occurs in the uvea’s ciliary body, affecting a portion known as the pars plana.
  • Posterior uveitis: This is the least common form of uveitis. It affects the inner structures of the eye, including the vitreous body (vitritis), the choroid (choroiditis), the choroid and retina (chorioretinitis) or blood vessels (vasculitis).

Another form of uveitis, known as panuveitis, refers to inflammation that affects all three parts of the uvea.

Uveitis causes

Many cases of uveitis have no identified cause, while others are caused by an underlying systemic disease. Some of the more frequent causes of iritis include:

  • Viral infections
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Syphilis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Certain types of arthritis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Eye trauma

Uveitis symptoms

Symptoms of uveitis may develop quickly, can affect one or both eyes and include:

  • Sensitivity to light, to the point where even indoor lights bother you and you want to sit in a dark room
  • Eye pain or soreness
  • Eye redness
  • Decrease in vision

Uveitis diagnosis

Uveitis is diagnosed through a complete eye examination and medical history. In some cases, you may need to undergo additional testing – including blood tests, X-rays or a CT scan – to determine if there are other causes.

Uveitis treatment

Uveitis typically is treated through steroid medication, which is administered in one of several ways:

  • Topical eye drops
  • Injections in or around the eye
  • Oral tablets
  • Implants that can be placed in the eye, such as Ozurdex® and Retisert®

In addition, your ophthalmologist may prescribe pupil-dilating eye drops to help alleviate the pain.

Multidisciplinary care

In some cases, especially when the uveitis has a systemic cause, Henry Ford ophthalmologists provide coordinated care by working with other specialists, including:

  • Rheumatologists
  • Pulmonologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Dermatologists

Uveitis recurrence and complications

This condition is often recurrent, meaning that it has a tendency to return once you’ve had it. Patients can have flare-ups rarely or frequently, while other patients only have one episode. Complications of uveitis may include:

At Henry Ford, patients come first.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is committed to providing our patients with compassionate, personalized care. We feature the most advanced treatments in eye care and are dedicated to vision research – always staying at the forefront of innovation. A leader in Michigan, as well as one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, we treat more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it.

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