Uveitis

  • Medical Author:
    Patricia S. Bainter, MD

    Dr. Bainter is a board-certified ophthalmologist. She received her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, CO. She completed an internal medicine internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, CO, followed by an ophthalmology residency and a cornea and external disease fellowship, both at the University of Colorado. She became board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1998 and recertified in 2008. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Bainter practices general ophthalmology including cataract surgery and management of corneal and anterior segment diseases. She has volunteered in eye clinics in the Dominican Republic and Bosnia. She currently practices at One to One Eye Care in San Diego, CA.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the treatment for uveitis?

Because uveitis is an inflammatory condition, the urgent treatment centers on control of the inflammation. This can be achieved with steroids given as eye drops, injection in or around the eye, orally (by mouth), or intravenously, depending on the extent and severity of the inflammation.

In certain situations, alternatives to steroids (such as indomethacin, methotrexate, and others) may be used.

The duration of the treatment may be as short as a week or several months or even years, depending on the cause.

If the cause is infectious, an anti-infective medication will also be used (for example antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal) to combat the underlying infectious agent.

What is the prognosis for uveitis?

The prognosis varies tremendously: some types are mild and occur only once, never to recur again. Others recur repeatedly over the years, coming and going at seemingly random and unpredictable intervals. Still other types never completely subside and linger for years, requiring chronic treatment to prevent flare-ups.

What are the complications of uveitis?

Uveitis has many potentially serious complications that can lead to permanent, irreversible vision loss. For this reason, it is imperative that uveitis be treated rapidly and to the best extent possible.

If the inflammation continues unchecked, complications may include sudden or chronic rises in eye pressure that can lead to permanent damage of the optic nerves, resulting in irreversible vision loss (glaucoma). The inflammation can also damage delicate cells on the cornea and retina, causing fluid buildup that blurs and damages the vision, sometimes irreversibly.

For these reasons, uveitis should ideally be treated as aggressively as possible. The medications used to treat uveitis have side effects of their own, some of them serious. The ophthalmologist, often together with the patient's other doctor(s), balances the risks and benefits of the drug(s) against the potential damage that can result from undertreated uveitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

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