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Uveitis: Etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis

James T Rosenbaum, MD
Section Editor
Jonathan Trobe, MD
Deputy Editor
Paul L Romain, MD


Uveitis, the process of intraocular inflammation, may result from many causes. Referral to an ophthalmology specialist is indicated for the diagnosis and management of most patients with symptoms suggesting uveal tract inflammation.

The definition of uveitis and its subsets; causes of uveitis and differential diagnosis of underlying conditions; clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and differential diagnosis of uveitis; and the role of the non-ophthalmologist in the diagnostic evaluation of patients with uveitis are described here. The treatment of uveitis is presented separately. (See "Uveitis: Treatment".)


Uveitis is characterized by inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle portion of the eye; the anterior portion of the uvea includes the iris and ciliary body, and the posterior portion of the uvea is known as the choroid (figure 1). The term derives from the Latin word for “grape,” since anatomists once thought that the peeling of the outside of the eye left a grape-like structure beneath.

Inflammation of the anterior uveal tract, characterized by the presence of leukocytes in the anterior chamber of the eye, is called anterior uveitis and is synonymous with iritis. When the adjacent ciliary body is also inflamed, the process is known as iridocyclitis [1].

The presence of leukocytes in the vitreous humor and evidence of active chorioretinal inflammation are diagnostic of intermediate uveitis and posterior uveitis, respectively. Terms used to describe forms of uveitis posterior to the lens include vitritis, intermediate uveitis, pars planitis, choroiditis, retinitis, chorioretinitis, and retinochoroiditis [1].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 24, 2017.
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