A prospective study was conducted of 865 patients with uveitis to determine the frequency of associated systemic diseases and to assess the value of limited laboratory screening of these patients. All patients underwent a standard diagnostic protocol followed--when indicated--by special tests and procedures performed in order of likelihood ('tailored approach'). For 628 patients (73%) a specific diagnosis was established based on history, ophthalmologic examination, and laboratory and radiographic studies. A definite association with systemic disease was determined for 220 patients (26%). A relationship with a subclinical systemic disorder could be presumed in 201 cases (23%) and a well-established clinical uveitis entity without a recognisable systemic disorder was present in 207 cases (24%). For 237 patients (27%) a diagnosis could not be determined. The most frequently observed systemic diseases were sarcoidosis (7%) and HLA-B27-associated seronegative spondylarthropathies (6%). Presumed or definite toxoplasmosis was encountered in 10% of cases. HLA-B27-associated acute anterior uveitis was the most common clinical entity (17%). In the majority of cases the presence of a systemic disease was not suspected prior to eye involvement and was only recognised after the subsequent diagnostic procedures.