Children's Hospital Colorado
Eye Care

Pediatric Uveitis

Kids aren’t just mini adults. In fact, they’re incredibly different. That’s why they need incredibly different care.

U.S. News & World Report ranked in all 10 specialties badge

Get Care

Would you like to learn more about us?
checked box icon Pediatric Ophthalmology (Eye Care)
Do you have questions about your child’s condition?

What is pediatric uveitis?

Pediatric uveitis is a group of conditions caused by inflammation in the eye. Uveitis gets its name from the uvea, the layer of the eye containing the blood vessels that bring nutrients and oxygen to the eye and remove waste. Uveitis can affect different layers of the eye, including:

  • Anterior uveitis: affecting the front of the eye
  • Intermediate uveitis: affecting the middle layer of the eye
  • Posterior uveitis: affecting the back of the eye
  • Panuveitis: affecting all layers of the eye

Depending on the site of inflammation, uveitis can cause symptoms such as redness, sensitivity to light and blurry vision, although many children with uveitis do not complain of any eye symptoms. Without treatment, uveitis can harm your child’s vision. The inflammation can damage the retina, cause the lens to become cloudy (cataract), or create issues with eye pressure, which can lead to glaucoma. With early diagnosis and treatment, your child may be able to avoid any serious long-term harm to their vision.

As these conditions can be long-lasting, children with uveitis need frequent visits to the eye doctor. Following up when your child’s ophthalmologist recommends is the most important step to preventing your child from losing their vision from uveitis. Children’s Hospital Colorado has a special Pediatric Uveitis Clinic designed specifically for uveitis treatment in children.

What causes Pediatric Uveitis?

The causes of uveitis aren’t completely understood. There are some links between uveitis and the body’s immune system. In some cases, the immune system may irritate the eye by causing inflammation when it’s fighting an eye infection. Some common infections that cause uveitis include:

  • The herpes virus
  • COVID-19
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Toxocariasis

In other cases, there is no infectious cause. Instead, the immune system attacks the healthy tissue of the eye and causes inflammation. Uveitis has been associated with autoimmune conditions affecting the whole body (systemic conditions) such as:

Some patients are genetically predisposed to uveitis, such as patients with the HLA-B27 gene. Medications can also cause uveitis. In about half of cases, there is no other cause, like an infection, specific gene, medication, or systemic autoimmune condition, found to explain the uveitis. In those cases, the uveitis is labeled “idiopathic,” meaning there is no other known cause.

Who gets Pediatric Uveitis?

Pediatric uveitis is an uncommon condition, causing about 4.3 new cases per 100,000 children per year in the U.S. Boys and girls are equally affected, however white and Black children have higher rates of uveitis than other ethnicities such as Hispanic.

In about 50% of uveitis cases, there is an underlying cause. For example, about 20% of children with uveitis also have JIA. Because of this, children with JIA get routine eye screenings to make sure uveitis is caught early. Another common cause of uveitis in children is idiopathic intermediate uveitis, sometimes called pars planitis.

Some of the underlying causes of uveitis are much more common in certain races or ethnicities. For example, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease (VKH), an autoimmune condition that can affect the skin, hair, brain and eyes, is much more common in patients of Native American, Hispanic and Asian heritage. This is likely related to the presence of certain risk factor genes that are more common in people from these groups.

Next steps