The term “uveitis” means "inflammation of the uvea." The uvea is the middle layer of the tissues surrounding the eyeball, stretching from the iris at the front of the eye all the way back to a lining beneath the retina at the back of the eye. The three main types of uveitis are named based on where inflammation occurs:
Uveitis can also be called acute or chronic, depending on whether it is short or long in duration.
Uveitis usually occurs in only one eye. In the most common forms of uveitis, the eye is reddened, and the redness reaches into the area just next to the iris. The affected pupil may be smaller than the other and its shape may be irregular. Vision is often blurred or misty, and blinking will not clear it. Deep, aching pain generally accompanies uveitis.
Uveitis can begin after injury to the eye or eye surgery, but it can also start with no obvious trigger. While the underlying cause of uveitis is unknown, autoimmune processes are thought to play a role.
If left untreated, uveitis can cause permanent damage to vision, including blindness. For this reason, medical examination and treatment is mandatory. The diagnosis of uveitis is made by means of a special medical tool called a slit lamp. Treatment involves medications to reduce inflammation and control pressure in the eye.
No natural treatment can substitute for standard medical care for uveitis. However, two natural substances taken together, vitamin C and vitamin E, have shown promise when used in addition to standard treatment.
In a double-blind trial of 145 people undergoing treatment for acute anterior uveitis, participants were additionally given either placebo or combined treatment with vitamin C (500 milligrams [mg] twice daily) and vitamin E (100 mg twice daily).1 People receiving the real treatment had better visual acuity at the end of the 8-week study period. Researchers hypothesized that free radicals (a class of dangerous, naturally occurring chemicals) play a role in the eye injury caused by uveitis. Vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants, and tend to neutralize free radicals. While further study is necessary to corroborate these results, it appears plausible at least that use of these antioxidants may help keep the eye healthy while it recovers from the condition.
Other antioxidants besides vitamins E and C have also been recommended for acute uveitis, but there is as yet no real evidence that they are helpful. These include beta-carotene, bilberry, citrus bioflavonoids, lipoic acid, lutein, OPCs, selenium, and vitamin A.
Antioxidants are also often recommended for chronic uveitis (again, alongside conventional care). One study examined the potential benefits of an antioxidant extract made from the herb turmeric, and appeared to find benefit.2 However, this study lacked a placebo group, and therefore cannot be taken as reliable.
Finally, websites discussing natural treatments for uveitis make numerous other recommendations, based on pure speculation. The list includes the following:
1. van Rooij J, Schwartzenberg SGWS, Mulder PGH, et al. Oral vitamins C and E as additional treatment in patients with acute anterior uveitis: a randomised double masked study in 145 patients. Br J Ophthalmol. 1999;83:1277–1282.
2. Lal B, Kapoor AK, Asthana OP, et al. Efficacy of curcumin in the management of chronic anterior uveitis. Phytother Res. 1999;13:318–322.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015