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What is uveitis?


Inflammation of the inside of the eyes is called uveitis.

  • Some children who have arthritis also get inflammation in their eyes. 

  • Some children get inflammation in their eyes but not anywhere else in the body.

  • Your child’s eyes may or may not be red or hurt even if they have uveitis.  

  • The eye inflammation can lead to cataracts, glaucoma or blindness.


The only way you can find out if your child has uveitis is to go to an eye doctor. They will look in your child’s eyes with a machine called a slit lamp. Often, your eye doctor and rheumatologist will work together to treat your child's uveitis.


If your child has uveitis, it will need to be treated. The doctor may give your child eye drops to use. One kind of eye drop is a steroid to decrease the inflammation in the eyes. The other kind of eye drop dilates the pupil to keep it open.  Some children need to take stronger medications to treat the uveitis.

Your doctor will discuss with you how often your child needs eye exams. 

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) uveitis screening

The American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines for how often children with JIA need eye exams.  Experts in rheumatology and ophthalmology wrote the guidelines based on how often uveitis happens in each type of JIA.  The goal is to find uveitis as early as possible and decrease the chance of permanent eye damage. 

The guidelines state how often a child needs eye exams based on 3 things:

  • The child’s age when the arthritis started;

  • The amount of time since the arthritis started; and

  • A blood test called an ANA.  

Children who are high risk need eye exams every 3 months, moderate risk every 6 months, and low risk every 12 months.

The schedule should be followed even if your child’s arthritis is in remission. If your child develops uveitis, the eye doctor will decide how often eye exams are needed. 

Whether your child with JIA is seen by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, it is important that your child gets the right testing: a slit lamp exam at every visit, a vision check, and an eye pressure check. The eyes should be dilated at least once a year.  

All children with uveitis should see an ophthalmologist with experience treating uveitis. Children's Mercy ophthalmologists are experienced in caring for children with uveitis.

Read more about ophthalmology and rheumatology services at Children's Mercy.