What Causes Anterior Uveitis?

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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2018
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Anterior uveitis refers to an illness in which the front portion of the eye becomes inflamed. It is most often the result of trauma, but autoimmune diseases, infection, or complications from certain medications are also possible causes. Symptoms tend to appear suddenly and may include decreased vision, eye pain, red bloodshot eyes, light sensitivity, and dark floaters in the visual field. The treatment of anterior uveitis depends upon the cause of the disease, but may include corticosteroid ointment, drops, or pills, immunosuppressive drugs, or antimicrobial therapy. It may take several months of treatment before the condition resolves. If left untreated, serious complications may develop.

Anterior uveitis is contained in the front part of the eye and may involve the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. When someone has anterior uveitis, the eye has obvious inflammation. Actually identifying the cause may be more difficult; this condition may mimic other eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, or pink eye. At times, the cause cannot be determined.


The majority of people with anterior uveitis have experienced some kind of eye trauma; individuals with penetrating eye trauma are especially apt to develop this condition. Those with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis have a higher likelihood of developing the disease when compared to the general public. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and other chronic inflammatory conditions also increase the risk. The condition may be associated with infectious diseases, including herpes, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, syphilis, and West Nile virus. The illness may appear as a side effect of treatment with sulfonamides or acne medications.

Symptoms can include sudden eye pain or aching. One may have difficulty seeing or be sensitive to light. Red, bloodshot eyes and dark floaters may also be present. When examined with a slit lamp, the ophthalmologist may see cells and haze in the anterior chamber of the eye, white blood cell clumps in the inner corneal surface, or the iris sticking to the cornea or lens.

Treatment is usually under the direction of an ophthalmologist. The prescribed medication depends on the cause of the anterior uveitis, but may include topical, oral, or injectable corticosteroids. If the cause is autoimmune, non-corticosteroid immunosuppressive medication may be used. Anterior uveitis as a result of infection will be treated with an antimicrobial drug. Surgery may be necessary if the inflammation caused significant damage to the tissues.

The condition often takes months to fully resolve. Improperly treated or untreated uveitis may result in cataracts, complete, permanent vision loss, glaucoma, retinal detachment, or optic nerve damage. In the U.S., anterior uveitis is responsible for about 10% of blindness.



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