What causes uveitis?

Uveitis is inflammation of the eye’s uvea. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, or trauma. To treat uveitis, doctors look for the cause of the trauma to the eye. Uveitis can be caused by many different kinds of trauma, including a virus, bacteria infections, or parasites.

Genes can play an important role in uveitis. Also, diseases that damage the body’s immune system, such as AIDS, can lower the body’s ability to protect itself from infections that can cause uveitis.

In many cases, perhaps as many as a third or half of all uveitis cases, the cause of the inflammation is not known.

Causes of Anterior Uveitis ► Causes of Anterior Uveitis ▼

In more than a third of all cases of anterior uveitis, the exact cause is unknown. Causes may include:

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine. This can cause recurrent arthritis.

Reiter’s syndrome is an inflammatory arthritis common in young men – often caused by chlamydia infection.

Psoriatic arthropathy is a form of arthritis that nearly a quarter of people with psoriasis may develop. It causes pain, swelling and stiffness in joints. Psoriasis is an immune-related disease of the skin and joints.

Inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation, ulcers and scarring to the wall of the intestine but can affect other parts of the body as well.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a kind of arthritis (inflammation of the joints) in children, affecting more than 75,000 children in the U.S. Uveitis is the most common eye problem that can develop in children with JRA. Children with JRA may get uveitis before JRA is even diagnosed, or it can occur many years later.

Herpes is a common viral infection that causes oral or genital herpes. It mostly affects only one eye, but it can cause recurrent uveitis.

Sarcoidosis is a kind of inflammation that can affect many parts of the body. Its cause is unknown.

Fuch’s heterochromic iridocyclitis is a chronic kind of iritis. Its cause is unknown. It may cause rapid increase in eye pressure, requiring immediate treatment.

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects different parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys and is related to the body’s immune system.

Intraocular lens surgically implanted to replace a cataract lens. Uveitis can be caused by trauma related to cataract surgery. In cataract surgery, the eye’s natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial (plastic) lens. The presence of this artificial lens can cause anterior uveitis.

Posner-Schlossman syndrome (PSS) is an uncommon inflammatory eye condition that usually affects one eye at a time. It typically affects young to middle-aged adults who develop high pressure inside the eye and mild inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints that can cause permanent joint damage and disability.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. It can be cured, but if left untreated, the late stages of the disease can cause heart problems, abnormalities, mental illness, blindness and death. Although on the decline over the past decade, it has seen more cases in recent years.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that usually attacks the lungs. TB disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States. It is spread through the air from one person to another. Although treatable, TB is still a problem in the U.S.

Lyme disease is a disease caused by bacteria that are transmitted to people from the bite of a deer tick. It often causes a "bull's-eye" rash around the bite, with symptoms such as fever, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint aches.

Causes of Intermediate Uveitis ► Causes of Intermediate Uveitis ▼

In more than two thirds of all cases of intermediate uveitis, the exact cause is unknown. The remaining third of all cases are thought to be caused by conditions such as:

Sarcoidosis, a kind of inflammation that can affect many parts of the body. Its cause is unknown.

MS (multiple sclerosis) an inflammatory disease that affects the brain and spinal cord

Lyme disease, a disease caused by bacteria that are transmitted to people from the bite of a deer tick. It often causes a "bull's-eye" rash around the bite, with symptoms such as fever, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint aches.

Causes of Posterior Uveitis ► Causes of Posterior Uveitis ▼

Following is a list of common causes of posterior uveitis. In more than one in ten cases of uveitis, however, the exact cause is unknown.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. It affects up to one fifth of all adults in America. People may become infected from eating raw or undercooked meats, drinking unpasteurized milk, cleaning cat litter boxes, or working in gardens or playing in sandboxes that contain cat feces.

Cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV retinitis) is a serious eye infection of the retina. It is a threat to people with weak immune systems, such as people with HIV, people undergoing chemotherapy, and people who have had organ transplants. Without treatment, CMV retinitis can destroy the retina and damage the optic nerve, resulting in blindness.

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects different parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys and is related to the body’s immune system.

Birdshot retinochoroidopathy may be an autoimmune disease. People with this condition may experience blurry vision, sensitivity to light, floaters, and night blindness. In most people, it affects both eyes. It causes white or yellow lesions scattered around the retina that can damage the retina and affect the vitreous.

Sarcoidosis is a kind of inflammation that can affect many parts of the body. Its cause is unknown.

Acute retinal necrosis is a condition that often causes retinal detachment and vision loss. Signs may include red eyes, eye pain and hazy/blurry vision.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a virus that infects nearly every adult. When infection with EBV occurs during adolescence or young adulthood, it often causes mono (mononucleosis).

Behcet’s disease is a rare, chronic inflammatory disease. The cause of Behcet's disease is unknown. If often begins when individuals are in their 20s or 30s, although it can happen at any age. Uveitis is very common with people suffering from Behcet’s, which can cause acute uveitis that happens soon after onset of Behcet’s disease.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. It can be cured, but if left untreated, the late stages of the disease can cause heart problems, abnormalities, mental illness, blindness and death. Although on the decline over the past decade, it has seen more cases in recent years.

APMPPE is an eye condition that can cause temporary loss of vision related to lesions that appear in part of the retina. The lesions usually heal after a few weeks.

Serpiginous choroidopathy is related to uveitis – a rare condition that affects the part of the uvea called the choroid. It can affect the vitreous body and cause lesions on the retina that result in vision loss.

Causes of Panuveitis ► Causes of Panuveitis ▼

As with other kinds of uveitis, the cause of panuveitis is often unknown. Other possible causes include:

Sarcoidosis is a kind of inflammation that can affect many parts of the body. Its cause is unknown.

Behcet’s disease is a rare, chronic inflammatory disease. The cause of Behcet's disease is unknown. If often begins when individuals are in their 20s or 30s, although it can happen at any age. Uveitis is very common with people suffering from Behcet’s, which can cause acute uveitis that happens soon after onset of Behcet’s disease.

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects different parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys and is related to the body’s immune system.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. It can be cured, but if left untreated, the late stages of the disease can cause heart problems, abnormalities, mental illness, blindness and death. Although on the decline over the past decade, it has seen more cases in recent years.

Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome is an inflammatory condition that involves the eyes and meninges (coverings of the brain). The condition is most common in Asians and American Indians. It often causes uveitis in both eyes and retinal detachments, and can result in serious vision loss and blindness. 

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that usually attacks the lungs. TB disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States. It is spread through the air from one person to another. Although treatable, TB is still a problem in the U.S.

Fungal Retinitis fungal infections can be a problem for people with weakened immune systems, including very premature babies and people with HIV or AIDS.

Causes of Uveitis in Children ► Causes of Uveitis in Children ▼

Children with uveitis, especially young children, may not know how to explain what they are experiencing, or they may not know anything is wrong until the uveitis has damaged their eyes and their vision. Often, the cause of the uveitis is unknown. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a leading cause of uveitis in children. Certain genes may also be related to uveitis. Causes may include:

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is defined as arthritis that causes inflammation and stiffness in joints lasting more than six weeks in a child under 16 years of age.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. It affects up to one fifth of all adults in America. People may become infected from eating raw or undercooked meats, drinking unpasteurized milk, cleaning cat litter boxes, or working in gardens or playing in sandboxes that contain cat feces.

Toxocariasis is a parasitic worm transmitted to people from dogs and cats. Children come into contact with the parasite when they play in sandboxes and on playgrounds contaminated with the parasite’s eggs. The worm’s larva can invade the eye and cause uveitis.

Sarcoidosis is a kind of inflammation that can affect many parts of the body. Its cause is unknown.

Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome is an inflammatory condition that involves the eyes and meninges (coverings of the brain). The condition is most common in Asians and American Indians. It often causes uveitis in both eyes and retinal detachments, and can result in serious vision loss and blindness. 

Acute retinal necrosis is a condition that often causes retinal detachment and vision loss. Signs may include red eyes, eye pain and hazy/blurry vision.

Reiter’s syndrome is an inflammatory arthritis common in young men – often caused by chlamydia infection.

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects different parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys and is related to the body’s immune system.

Behcet’s disease is a rare, chronic inflammatory disease. The cause of Behcet's disease is unknown. If often begins when individuals are in their 20s or 30s, although it can happen at any age. Uveitis is very common with people suffering from Behcet’s, which can cause acute uveitis that happens soon after onset of Behcet’s disease.

Fuch’s heterochromic iridocyclitis is a chronic kind of iritis. Its cause is unknown. It may cause rapid increase in eye pressure, requiring immediate treatment.

Chicken pox is a common childhood illness. It occasionally causes serious side effects for children and people infected with the disease later in life.

What Causes Vision Loss from Uveitis? ► What Causes Vision Loss from Uveitis? ▼

Uveitis is a common cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States and in the world. Uveitis may cause blurry and reduced vision. When treated, vision may recover. In some cases, mostly in intermediate uveitis, posterior uveitis and panuveitis, where inflammation is recurrent and chronic, damage to the eye can occur, particularly to the retina and optic nerve, and cause permanent visual loss. Read More