What Is It?

Uveitis is a term for inflammation of the eye. If left untreated, the complications of uveitis can be devastating.

Uveitis is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and the world among the working age population.

What is Uveitis?

Uveitis is inflammation of a part of the eye called the uvea. The uvea (pronounced “You-Vay-Uh”) is a layer of the eye made up of three parts. These are the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid.

Uveitis can occur in one eye or both eyes. Inflammation of the uvea may involve other parts of the eye, or any part of the eye, including the cornea (the clear, curved front of the eye), the sclera (the white outer part of the eye), the vitreous body, the retina and the optic nerve.

The iris is the colored part of the front of the eye. It controls light that enters the eye by controlling the size of the eye’s opening (the pupil).

The ciliary body is a group of muscles and blood vessels that changes the shape of the lens so the eye can focus. It also makes a fluid called aqueous humor. Aqueous humor is a clear, watery fluid that fills and circulates through parts of the front of the eye.

The choroid is a middle layer of the eye. It holds blood vessels that feed other parts of the eye, especially the retina. The retina is the inner layer of the eye. It contains nerve cells that sense color and light and send image information to the brain.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body's response to injury. This injury, or trauma, may be caused by a blow or wound, eye surgery, a disease such as a virus, bacteria infection, or a parasite. It may be caused by problems with the body’s immune system or genetic disease. For many people with uveitis, the exact cause of their inflammation is unknown.

Inflammation is the body’s attempt to rid itself of the cause of trauma, and to heal any damage caused by it. Often, however, the inflammation itself can damage the body. In the case of uveitis, the inflammation can lead to problems that cause loss of vision, or even blindness.

What are the Types of Uveitis

When doctors diagnose and treat uveitis, they may group it in different ways. Uveitis is often grouped by the part of the uvea it affects.

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Who is at Risk for Uveitis?

Uveitis can affect anyone at any age, but it is most commonly seen in the forth decade of life. It affects children, working adults, and senior citizens. There is a higher prevalence in women. It is a leading cause of blindness in the United States and in the world. Working age Americans are most likely to get uveitis. As we age, however, we are more likely to get uveitis in both eyes and panuveitis (uveitis that affects all of the uvea).

What Causes Uveitis?

Uveitis is inflammation of the eye’s uvea. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, or trauma. To treat uveitis, doctors look for the cause of the trauma to the eye. Uveitis can be caused by many different kinds of trauma, including a virus, bacteria infections, or parasites.

Genes can play an important role in uveitis. Also, diseases that damage the body’s immune system, such as AIDS, can lower the body’s ability to protect itself from infections that can cause uveitis.

In many cases, perhaps as many as a third or half of all uveitis cases, the cause of the inflammation is not known.

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How do Eye Doctors Check for Uveitis?

Diagnosis and treatment of uveitis is important for a number of reasons. Uveitis can cause permanent damage to the eyes and vision loss that cannot be reversed. Also, uveitis may be caused by another disease or condition that, if left untreated, can lead to serious illness. For some people, a diagnosis of uveitis is a first step in diagnosing and treating a life-threatening problem.

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How do Eye Doctors Treat Uveitis?

The goal of treatment is to treat the inflammation and check the eyes regularly to help prevent damage and vision loss.

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Living with Uveitis

You must work with your eye doctor if you have uveitis. Eye doctors know how to treat uveitis, but they have to work with you to find the best way to treat the condition. Stay informed, take your medicines as scheduled, and follow your treatment plan.

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