People with uveitis develop red, swollen, inflamed eyes. They also have eye pain. Certain conditions increase the risk of uveitis, but the disease often occurs for no known reason. Treatments can restore lost vision and prevent further vision loss. Certain types of uveitis can return after treatment. Untreated uveitis can lead to blindness.
Uveitis is a general term used to describe a group of diseases that cause red eyes, eye pain and inflammation. These diseases typically affect the uvea, the eye’s middle layer. They can also affect other parts of the eye. If not treated, uveitis can cause permanent blindness or vision loss.
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Uveitis may develop in one eye or both eyes. It can affect the:
An estimated 30,000 Americans lose their eyesight every year due to uveitis.
Uveitis affects people of all ages, even children. Women and people between 40 to 60 years old have a slightly higher risk.
Healthcare providers typically classify uveitis based on where the eye inflammation occurs. Types of uveitis include:
Anterior: The most common type, anterior uveitis causes inflammation in the front of the eye. Symptoms may appear suddenly and can occasionally resolve on their own if they are mild. Some people have chronic, recurring eye inflammation that goes away with treatment and then comes back. You may be more prone to anterior uveitis if you have:
Intermediate: Young adults are more prone to intermediate uveitis. This condition causes inflammation in the middle of the eye. Also called cyclitis or vitritis, it often affects the vitreous, the fluid-filled space inside the eye. Symptoms may improve, go away and then come back and get worse. About one in three people with intermediate uveitis also have:
Posterior: The least common form, posterior uveitis affects the inner part of the eye. It is often also the most severe. It can affect the retina, optic nerve and choroid. The choroid contains blood vessels that supply blood to the retina. It’s sometimes called choroiditis or chorioretinitis. This type can cause recurrent symptoms that last months or years. Potential causes include:
Panuveitis: Rarely, uveitis affects all three layers of the eye. This type is more severe and raises the chances of permanent vision loss. Potential causes include:
An estimated one in three uveitis cases have no known cause. People who smoke are more prone to uveitis. Eye inflammation may also result from:
Uveitis symptoms may come on gradually or suddenly. You may experience:
The healthcare provider caring for your eyes will look at the inside of your eye during an eye exam. A standard eye exam usually includes:
Your healthcare provider may also order other tests, such as:
Untreated uveitis can lead to blindness. It’s important to see your healthcare provider right away if you have eye redness, inflammation, or pain. In many instances, treatments help restore lost vision. They can also prevent more tissue damage and ease inflammation and pain. If a health condition contributed to uveitis, getting that disease treated should also relieve the eye inflammation.
Some forms of uveitis take a long time to go away. Some come back after treatment. Depending on the disease type, treatments include:
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An estimated one in five people with uveitis will develop high pressure in the eye (ocular hypertension). This condition can lead to glaucoma and irreversible vision loss. People with uveitis are also at risk for other eye problems, including:
Healthcare providers usually don’t know what causes most cases of uveitis. There isn’t much you can do to prevent the disease.
Doing what you can to maintain good eye health is always wise. Getting care for diseases, infections or other health conditions linked to uveitis can help protect your vision. You can also lower your risk by quitting smoking.
Most people who get prompt treatment for uveitis have little, if any, long-term vision problems. Treatments can stop disease progression and restore lost vision. Severe forms may need long-term treatment. Severe disease is more likely to cause vision loss or even blindness. If you have conditions that put you at risk for uveitis, regular eye exams are essential. Talk to your eye care healthcare provider any time you have red eyes, eye pain or inflammation.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Uveitis is a serious condition that requires fast medical attention. With early care, treatments can restore vision and prevent tissue damage that can lead to blindness. Your eye care provider can determine the best treatment based on the disease type and cause. Because uveitis often comes back after treatment, regular eye exams are a must for protecting your vision.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/23/2021.
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