Iritis is an inflammation of the iris and is sometimes linked to certain systemic conditions infections previous eye surgery or injury. The iris of the eye is composed of pigmented tissue that gives the eye its colour (i.e. - hazel eyes) and regulates the amount of light entering through the pupil. Iritis is an inflammation of the iris and is sometimes linked to certain systemic conditions infections previous eye surgery or injury. A flare-up of iritis often occurs for unknown reasons but is commonly associated with diseases like arthritis Crohn’s disease colitis irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) lupus as well as AIDS and tuberculosis. While iritis sometimes occurs only once it can often recur.
- Red/ bloodshot eye
- sensitivity to light
- pain (ranging from mild aching or soreness to intense discomfort) which is exacerbated by light
- different-sized pupils or a sluggish or fixed pupil
- blurry vision
If left untreated iritis can result in serious eye complications that can threaten vision. As the iris becomes more inflamed it swells and becomes very sticky. This stickiness can result in adhesions of the iris (called synechiae) to the crystalline lens which lies behind it or to the cornea which lies in front. Synechiae formation can block fluid flow within the eye and can give rise to increased pressure (secondary glaucoma). If iritis is left untreated for a significant period of time it can also result in cataracts corneal clouding and retinal swelling. To minimize vision loss and control inflammation a complete eye examination should be performed as soon as symptoms occur.
Iritis can be diagnosed with a slit lamp microscope designed for magnified views of the eye. Your eye care practitioner will use the microscope to look for fine white blood cells floating inside the eye – usually a key indicator of inflammation – and excess protein particles floating in the eye. The internal structures of the eye are also carefully examined to determine if inflammation exists elsewhere. Since the condition is so closely associated with several diseases your eye care practitioner will probably also go over your health history in order to help determine the cause. If deemed necessary referral is made for blood tests and x-rays to rule out certain autoimmune diseases.
Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment of iritis are essential. Treatment consists of the use of corticosteroid and dilating eyedrops. Corticosteroid eyedrops are used to suppress inflammation. Initial treatment is often very frequent (sometimes as often as every hour) until the inflammation is suppressed and then the treatment is tapered off. Dilating eyedrops keep the inflamed muscles of the iris from contracting and prevent the iris from sticking to the crystalline lens and cornea. They also quickly reduce pain discomfort and sensitivity to light.
Occasionally iritis can be very severe and it will not respond to the corticosteroid drops. In this situation an injection of steroids adjacent to the eye may be required in addition to the topical corticosteroid medication. This occurs most frequently when the disease occurs in both eyes. Unfortunately treatment that works for one person will not always work for another. Because of this it is absolutely necessary to have follow-up examinations with your eye care practitioner.