What is uveitis?


Uveitis is the name given to an Inflammation of the internal lining of the eye. It is a potentially serious complication of JIA.


Regular eye screening is essential to detect uveitis at an early stage, as patients remain symptom-free until the eye suffers significant and sometimes irreversible damage.


Are there different types of uveitis?


There are two main types of uveitis in children:

  • Acute uveitis develops quickly, appearing in the course of a few days. Children with acute uveitis experience pain and redness of the eye.
  • Chronic uveitis tends to develop gradually, without causing redness or pain. This is the type most commonly associated with arthritis.

What causes uveitis?


Arthritis is the most common cause of uveitis in children. Some children with uveitis have other medical problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Behcet’s syndrome, or sarcoidosis. In cases where no underlying cause is found, the condition is called idiopathic uveitis. The treatment for uveitis remains similar whatever the cause.


Can uveitis cause damage to the eye?


Chronic inflammation of the uvea can damage the delicate structures of the eye. Complications of uveitis include:

  • Cataracts—clouding of the lens of the eye
  • Glaucoma—damage to the optical nerve caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye

These conditions, left untreated, lead to impaired vision.


What treatments are available?


Inflammation in the eye may be treated in two main ways:

  • Steroid eye drops: This usually is the first form of treatment; it is not used for long-term control of uveitis.
  • Immune suppressing drugs: These provide effective long-term control of inflammation in the eye; they may be delivered orally or by injection.

How is uveitis diagnosed?

Eye examination with a slit lamp


Uveitis in children is diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. Because inflammation left untreated can cause damage to the eye, it is vital that children with JIA are checked regularly for uveitis.

Checks for uveitis usually comprise at least two main elements:

  1. A vision test, using an eye chart (or, for very young children, a set of pictures)
  2. An examination of the eye, using a ‘slit lamp’

The examination may require a child to receive eye drops to dilate the pupils of the eyes; this allows the doctor to gain a better look inside the eye.


What symptoms may occur?


In many children, particularly the youngest, there may be no symptoms at all. This is why regular eye checks are so important. In some children, uveitis can cause redness and pain. Be sure to talk to your doctor if your child is complaining of sore eyes, or if their eyes become unusually sensitive to light.


Polly’s Sore Knee and Snowy Eyes!

A Short Story for Kids with JIA

Written by Vanessa Raimondo, a rheumatology nurse based in Edinburgh, and illustrated by Emily Farrugia of the Teapot Trust in Edinburgh, Polly’s Sore Knee and Snowy Eyes! tells the story of how Polly learns that she has JIA and uveitis–and of how (with the help of her doctors, her nurse, and some very special medicine) she began to feel better.

Download a free copy today.

Seeing Through the Snow

A Short Story for Older Kids with JIA

Another creation of Vanessa Raimondo and Emily Farrugia, Seeing Through the Snow is an ideal introduction to uveitis for older kids and their families. Follow along as David learns to understand and live with his eye condition while camping and at school–and as he discovers the difference proper treatment can make.

Download a free copy.