Key points about uveitis

  • Uveitis is swelling and damage to your eye tissues caused by inflammation.
  • It can be difficult to work out what's caused it, but uveitis may be caused by an infection, bruising, toxins or an autoimmune attack.
  • Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, sensitivity to light, as well as dark floating spots in your vision.
  • If left untreated, uveitis can lead to vision loss, so it's important to see your doctor if you have these symptoms.
  • Medication is the most common treatment for uveitis.
Closeup of woman's right eye with uveitis or inflammation
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Uveitis is caused by inflammatory responses inside your eye. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to tissue damage, germs or toxins. White blood cells rush to the affected part of your body to contain or eliminate the threat. This causes swelling, redness and heat, and destroys tissues in the area.

In many cases the exact cause is unknown. However, it can be caused by:

  • an attack from the body’s own immune system (autoimmunity)
  • infections or tumours occurring within your eye or in other parts of your body
  • bruises to your eye
  • toxins that may penetrate your eye.

Uveitis is usually classified by where it occurs in your eye. The different types of uveitis include:

  • anterior uveitis or iritis – this mainly affects the iris and is the most common type of uveitis
  • intermediate uveitis – this mainly affects the ciliary body (a part of the eye that controls the shape of the lens), although it may also affect the retina (a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye on the inside)
  • posterior uveitis – this affects the back of the eye
  • panuveitis – this affects the middle layer of the eye.


Image credit: Canva

Common symptoms of uveitis include:

  • blurred vision
  • dark, floating spots in your vision (floaters)
  • eye pain
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • redness of your eye.

See your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the above symptoms.

Autoimmune disorders and infections can increase your risk of getting uveitis. These include:

If you are concerned that you might have uveitis, it is important to see your doctor or optometrist for an eye examination. They are able to detect eye diseases and help determine what is causing your eye symptoms.

You can also contact an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) directly for this type of examination or to have your eyes assessed and treated. Many eye care providers have lots of information available about uveitis and other eye diseases on their websites.

Your eye specialist can see if you have uveitis by doing a thorough eye examination. This may include the following:

An eye test

You will be asked to read letters from different rows of a chart. This measures how well you see at certain distances.

An examination of the inside of your eye

In this test, drops are put in your eye to make your pupil (the hole in the centre of your eye) wider (dilate). A special magnifying lens is used to look inside your eye to see if you have a uveitis and how bad it is.

A tonometry test

In this test, an instrument is used to measure the pressure inside your eye. This test checks for other eye problems, such as glaucoma

If you have uveitis, your doctor will do further tests including x-rays or blood tests to find out the cause of your uveitis.

Although uveitis cannot be cured, it can usually be stopped from getting any worse. Treatment aims to control the signs and symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment depends on the types of uveitis you have or if you have any underlying disease that is causing your uveitis. Usually treatment of uveitis consists of:

  • steroids (eye drops, pills or injections around your eye) to reduce inflammation
  • immunosuppresive agents (pills) to reduce inflammation by targeting your immune system.

In some rare cases, surgery may be needed.

Apps reviewed by Healthify

You may find it useful to look at some Ear, nose, throat and eye health apps and Skin care (dermatology) apps.

Uveitis and iritis(external link) Royal Australian and NZ College of Opthalmologists, 2013
Uveitis(external link) NHS Choices, UK, 2017
Uveitis(external link) MedlinePlus, US, 2018
Facts about uveitis(external link) National Eye Institute, US, 2011


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Credits: Adapted with permission from The Auckland Eye Manual. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr Janine Bycroft

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