The iris is the colored part of the eye, and iritis is an inflammation of the iris. Iritis can also be referred to as anterior uveitis. The iris contains muscles that relax and contract the pupil (dilate and constrict the pupil) and it serves as a divider between the anterior and posterior chambers of the eye. This condition can affect people of all ages. The cause may be unknown, or it may be associated with certain systemic inflammatory disorders or autoimmune disorders. It can be acute or chronic. Acute iritis presents itself suddenly, typically as a painful red eye with light sensitivity. Chronic iritis can last months or years, and may not respond to treatment as well as acute version. People with chronic iritis are often at higher risk for developing visual impairments.
What Symptoms of Iritis Should I Know About?
Symptoms of iritis can appear suddenly or come on gradually, and may vary from person to person. Sudden symptoms of this condition can include:
- Severe eye pain
- Eye redness
- Eye soreness
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- Excessive tearing
- Blurred vision
- Eye may appear swollen
- Uneven pupil sizes between the two eyes
What Causes Iritis in People Like Me?
In most cases, the cause is unknown, although it can sometimes be associated with a secondary inflammatory disease that affects other parts of the body. Common inflammatory disease that can cause iritis include Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sarcoidosis, and collagen vascular disease. Talk with your eye-care professional about possible causes of your iritis and possible medical conditions that may lead to iritis.
During a routine eye examination, your eye doctor will use a slit lamp (a special microscope designed for eye exams) that allows him or her to look inside the eye and examine the anterior chamber, in order to look for specific signs of inflammation. Your examination may also involve various diagnostic techniques such as checking the pressure inside your eyes (glaucoma test), pupillary response, and vision testing. Dilation is routinely required due to concomitant risk of inflammation inside the eye. In many cases additional medical tests such as blood work will be needed to help diagnose the secondary condition that may be causing the iritis.
What Can I Do to Treat My Iritis?
Your doctor’s goals will be to reduce the inflammation, pain, and redness, prevent complications, and treat any other health problems that may be evident. In most cases, prescription drug therapy is used to treat this condition. With early detection, treatment can preserve vision. Eye drops will be prescribed, and treatment length varies on severity and cause of the iritis. Oral cortisone drugs or cortisone eye drops may be prescribed to reduce inflammation. In most cases, diet and normal activities are not affected, although most people will need to wear dark sunglasses due to photophobia until treatment is complete.
Risk Factors for Iritis
Here is a look at some of the factors that may increase your risk of developing iritis:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Herpes infections
- Lyme disease
- Eye injuries
- Candida infection
- Reiter’s syndrome
Unfortunately, there are no preventive measures known for this condition. Talk with your eye care professional about what risk factors you may have.