An inflammation of the iris which may cause discomfort, light sensitivity and sight loss
Iritis is the inflammation of the iris, the colored portion of the eye. Iritis, which is often the result of a disease in another part of the body, can be a recurring condition. A fairly common eye problem, iritis usually responds well to treatment. However, the condition may threaten sight when left untreated.
What Is the Iris?
The iris is a circular muscle near the front of the eye. Besides giving color to the eye, the iris controls the amount of light which enters the eye through the pupil. The iris is located behind the cornea (the clear protective layer of the eye) and just in front of the focusing lens.
To see clearly, the proper amount of light must enter the eye. Just as the shutter controls the amount of light that enters a camera, the iris regulates the amount of light that enters the eye. The iris contains two muscles, which control the size of the pupil opening. When too much light is present, the muscles cause the pupil to become smaller to reduce excessive light and glare. In dim light or at night, the muscles make the pupil larger to increase the amount of light entering the eye.
What Causes Iritis?
In many cases, iritis is related to a disease or infection in another part of the body. Diseases such as arthritis, tuberculosis, or syphilis can contribute to the development of iritis. Infection of some parts of the body (tonsils, sinus, kidney, gallbladder and teeth) can also cause inflammation of the iris.
In other cases, iritis may follow injury to the eye or accompany an ulcer or foreign body on the cornea. Often, the exact cause of the disorder remains unknown.
In many cases, iritis is related to an infection or disease in another part of the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Iritis?
The symptoms of iritis usually appear suddenly and develop rapidly over a few hours or days. Iritis commonly causes pain, tearing, light sensitivity and blurred vision. A red eye often occurs as a result of iritis. Some patients may experience floaters, small specks or dots moving in the field of vision. In addition, the pupil may become smaller in the eye affected by iritis.
How Is Iritis Diagnosed?
A careful eye exam is extremely important when the symptoms of iritis occur, as inflammation inside the eye can affect sight and could lead to blindness. A slit lamp, which illuminates and magnifies the structures of the eye, is commonly used to detect any signs of inflammation. A diagnosis is often made on the basis of an eye examination.
Since iritis can be associated with another disease, an evaluation of the patient's overall health is sometimes necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, blood tests, skin tests and x-rays may be consulted to determine the cause of the inflammation.
How Is Iritis Treated?
Treatment of iritis is often directed at finding and removing the cause of the inflammation. In addition, eye drops and ointments are used to relieve pain, quiet the inflammation, dilate the pupil and reduce any scarring. Both steroids and antibiotics may be used. The application of hot packs may also provide relief from the symptoms of iritis. In severe cases, oral medications and injections may be necessary to treat the condition.
A case of iritis usually lasts six to eight weeks. During this time, the patient must be observed carefully to monitor potential side effects from medications and any complications that may occur. Cataracts, glaucoma, corneal changes and secondary inflammation of the retina may occur as a result of iritis and the medications used to treat the disorder.
Sight Loss Can Be Prevented
Since iritis is an inflammation inside the eye, the condition is potentially sight-threatening. Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment of iritis are essential. To minimize any loss of vision, the patient should have a complete eye examination as soon as symptoms occur. If diagnosed in the early stages, iritis can usually be controlled before vision loss occurs.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of iritis or have other vision problems, you should obtain a complete eye examination.