Uveitis

What is it?

Uveitis is the name for inflammation within the eye. Uveitis is a major cause of blindness.

  • Causes

    Some types of uveitis are caused by an infection such as the herpes virus or a bacterial infection. The body tries to fight off infection using the immune system, but sometimes the immune system can also be damaging. In such cases, white blood cells can enter the eye and cause inflammation that damages delicate eye tissue.

    Uveitis may be due to a condition that also affects other parts of the body, such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease or some types of arthritis. Non-infectious uveitis can be an 'auto-immune' condition, which means the body attacks itself. Sometimes this can be limited to the eye, such as in Birdshot uveitis.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of uveitis can include red eyes, pain, being sensitive to light, blurred vision, floaters and seeing flashing lights. The exact symptoms will depend on the type of uveitis and which part of the eye is affected.

  • Treatments

    Treatment for non-infectious uveitis is usually with steroids. These can be given as eye drops, tablets or injections around or in the eye. Sometimes other drugs to dampen down the body’s immune system are needed. The treatments may cause side effects that need to be monitored and treated.

  • Research

    Key areas for uveitis research include finding better ways to monitor the condition as it progresses. We don't know enough about when to start treatment to have the best chance of avoiding permanent sight loss, or which treatments (or combinations of treatments) might work best for individual patients.

    We need new treatments that don't have unwanted side effects. At the moment, uveitis treatments may lead to other conditions that cause sight loss, such as glaucoma and cataract. Understanding more about how the immune system works may lead to more targeted treatments.

    Recent projects

    Can supercell analysis diagnose Birdshot uveitis?

    1 March 15 - 31 March 16

    Crunching numbers to speed up diagnosis for a very rare condition.

    Find out more

    Can we develop a fast, reliable and cheap way to monitor Birdshot’s progress?

    1 November 14 - 1 October 15

    Testing a handheld device that measures electrical activity in the eye.

    Find out more

    More uveitis research

  • Personal stories

    Tricia was diagnosed with uveitis in 2013 and only has 20% of sight remaining.

    Tricia booked an appointment with the optician in October 2012 after noticing her vision was becoming blurred when driving. They said that she had freckles at the back of the eye but was told not to worry. She was also told to come back if the condition got worse and if she had floaters (small shapes often tiny black dots that people see floating in their field of vision).

    As her poor vision continued she was referred to hospital and approximately two/three months later, after several more tests they finally had an explanation. At that point Tricia describes her sight as 'looking thorough used cling film with black spots'.

    Tricia lost the sight in her right eye in March 2013 and after undergoing further tests was finally diagnosed with uveitis. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and she had lost the majority of sight in her left eye by the end of 2013.

    The doctor describe Tricia's case as quite unusual - normally affecting people 20-30 years older than her.

    Tricia’s remaining sight is affected by the time of day. During the day the reflection of the sunlight can cause a glare, which makes it difficult to see. At night-time she can’t see anything at all.

    Tricia said: “Fight for Sight does amazing research work. My condition is rare and there isn’t a cure at present. That’s why I’m keen to raise funds to help research and whilst it may not help me, it could potentially help someone in the future to either find a cure or prevent others from getting the condition.”

  • Clinical trials

    You could play an important part in eye research by being a participant in clinical research study that may benefit many people. You could even help shape clinical research by becoming more actively involved and having a say. Patients, carer, or anyone with an interest can help.

    What are clinical trials

    Clinical trials are research studies that find out if a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. They are a key research tool for improving medical knowledge and patient care. The people who carry out research are mostly the same doctors and healthcare professionals who treat people. Their aim is to find better ways of treating patients and keeping people healthy.

    Taking part

    Here are some ways to find out about research projects and clinical trials that you can get involved in.

    UK Clinical Trials Gateway

    The UK Clinical Trials Gateway run by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides easy to understand information about clinical research trials running in the UK, and gives to a large range of information about these trials. It is designed to enable patients and clinicians to locate and contact trials of interest. Visit their website and select the eye condition that you are interested in.

    NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio

    The NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio is a database of high-quality clinical research studies in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Within this the Ophthalmology Specialty Group supports a national portfolio of research studies in ophthalmology and the vision sciences. See their website for details.

    If you wish to join a trial it is always best to discuss this with your doctor or clinical team first.

Last updated August 2015
Approved by Dr Omar Mahroo, King’s College London

Latest news about Uveitis

Fight for Sight announces 13 new awards to fund vital eye research
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Better options for treating birdshot
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