Acute anterior uveitis and spondyloarthropathies

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 1998 Jul;10(4):314-8. doi: 10.1097/00002281-199807000-00006.


Acute anterior uveitis (AAU) is characterized by sudden-onset, mostly unilateral exacerbations of an inflammation of the iris and ciliary body. The duration of illness is short if the patient is treated with corticosteroids. Half of all patients with any type of anterior uveitis are HLA-B27-positive, and more than half of the B27-positive patients have spondyloarthropathy. Ophthalmologists should therefore refer all patients with AAU who are HLA-B27-positive to a rheumatologist. Because attacks of AAU are extremely painful and frightening, most spondyloarthropathy patients with AAU will seek out an ophthalmologist on their own. The anterior chamber of the eye and the joints are mesenchymal cavities that are cleaned by macrophages. Anterior chamber-associated immune deviation is the mechanism by which specific regulatory T cells normally produce sufficient transforming growth factor-beta to impair inflammatory reactions that might hamper vision. Another mechanism of immune privilege is Fas-ligand induced apoptosis. Because the cells of the anterior eye express Fas-ligand, infiltrating cells are apoptotically killed. Comparable mechanisms may occur at a lower level in joints. The cause of AAU and spondyloarthropathy is unknown. B27 is probably only responsible for one quarter of the pathogenesis, other non-B27 genetic factors for another quarter, and unknown exogenous factors for the remaining half. It is possible that Gram-negative bacteria such as Klebsiella or Yersinia are involved in the pathogenesis in a yet unknown way.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • HLA-B27 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / complications*
  • Joint Diseases / immunology
  • Spinal Diseases / complications*
  • Spinal Diseases / immunology
  • Uveitis, Anterior / complications*
  • Uveitis, Anterior / immunology


  • HLA-B27 Antigen