What is uveitis?

Uveitis is actually a number of different conditions and the term intraocular inflammation is often used to cover the spectrum of uveitis conditions. The uvea is made up of the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid, and when any part of the uvea becomes inflamed it is called uveitis.

There are a number of quite different causes of uveitis. It may result from an infection such as a virus (eg herpes) or a fungus (eg histoplasmosis), or it may be due to a parasite such as toxoplasmosis.

Uveitis is described in different ways depending which part of your uvea is affected:

  • Anterior uveitis is when the iris or ciliary body at the front of your eye is affected (sometimes called iritis).
  • Intermediate uveitis is when the area behind your ciliary body is affected, with most of the inflammation being seen in the vitreous, the jelly-like substance that fills your eye.
  • Posterior uveitis affects the choroid (choroiditis) or retina (retinitis) or both. It can also affect the optic nerve head, where the nerve fibres leave your eye for the brain. There are many types of posterior uveitis including Birdshot chorioretinopathy or punctate inner choroidopathy (PIC).
  • Panuveitis is where the inflammation affects the whole uvea.

Uveitis is also described in different ways, epending on how long it lasts:

  • Acute: when your uveitis starts suddenly but improves within three months. 
  • Recurrent: when the inflammation flares up and settles down over months and years. Anterior uveitis is usually recurrent with acute episodes.
  • Chronic: when the inflammation is longer lasting and also comes back within three months of stopping treatment. Intermediate and posterior types of uveitis are usually chronic.

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