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Definition

What is iritis?

The iris is a circular, pigmented membrane that provides the eye its color and the opening in the center is the pupil of the eye.

The iris is made up of muscular fibers that control the amount of light entering the pupil so that you can see clearly. The iris accomplishes this task by making the pupil smaller in bright light and larger in dim light.

In some people, the iris can become inflamed. This is termed iritis.

How common is iritis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of iritis?

The common symptoms of iritis are:

  • Pain in the eye or brow region
  • Worsened eye pain when exposed to bright light
  • Reddened eye, especially adjacent to the iris
  • Small or funny shaped pupil
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Eye pain, including pain associated with bright light
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness in the eye, especially near the iris

Causes

What causes iritis?

Often, the cause of iritis can’t be determined. In some cases, iritis can be linked to eye trauma, genetic factors or certain diseases. Causes of iritis include:

  • Injury to the eye. Blunt force trauma, a penetrating injury, or a burn from a chemical or fire can cause acute iritis.
  • Shingles (herpes zoster) on your face can cause iritis. Other infectious diseases, such as toxoplasmosis, histoplasmosis, tuberculosis and syphilis, can be linked to other types of uveitis.
  • Genetic predisposition. People who develop certain autoimmune diseases because of a gene alteration that affects their immune systems might also develop acute iritis. Diseases include ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriatic arthritis.
  • Behcet’s disease. An uncommon cause of acute iritis in Western countries, this condition is also characterized by joint problems, mouth sores and genital sores.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic iritis can develop in children with this condition.
  • This autoimmune disease involves the growth of collections of inflammatory cells (granulomas) in areas of your body, including your eyes.
  • Certain medications. Some drugs, such as the antibiotic rifabutin (Mycobutin) and the antiviral medication cidofovir, that are used to treat HIV infections can be a rare cause of iritis. Stopping these medications usually stops the iritis symptoms.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for iritis?

There are many risk factors for iritis, such as:

  • Have a specific genetic alteration. People with a specific change in a gene that’s essential for healthy immune system function are more likely to develop iritis. This change is labeled HLA-B27.
  • Develop a sexually transmitted infection. Certain infections, such as syphilis or HIV/AIDs, are linked with a significant risk of iritis.
  • Have a weakened immune system or an autoimmune disorder. This includes conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and reactive arthritis.
  • Smoke tobacco. Studies have shown that smoking contributes to your risk.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is iritis diagnosed?

Your eye doctor will conduct a complete eye exam, including:

  • External examination. Your doctor might use a penlight to look at your pupils, observe the pattern of redness in one or both eyes, and check for signs of discharge.
  • Visual acuity. Your doctor tests how sharp your vision is using an eye chart and other standard tests.
  • Slit-lamp examination. Using a special microscope with a light on it, your doctor views the inside of your eye looking for signs of iritis. Dilating your pupil with eye drops enables your doctor to see the inside of your eye better.
  • If your eye doctor suspects that a disease or condition is causing your iritis, he or she may work with your primary care doctor to pinpoint the underlying cause. In that case, further testing might include blood tests or X-rays to identify or rule out specific causes.

How is iritis treated?

Iritis treatment is designed to preserve vision and relieve pain and inflammation. For iritis associated with an underlying condition, treating that condition also is necessary.

Most often, treatment for iritis involves:

  • Steroid eyedrops. Glucocorticoid medications, given as eyedrops, reduce inflammation.
  • Dilating eyedrops. Eyedrops used to dilate your pupil can reduce the pain of iritis. Dilating eyedrops also protect you from developing complications that interfere with your pupil’s function.

If your symptoms don’t clear up, or seem to worsen, your eye doctor might prescribe oral medications that include steroids or other anti-inflammatory agents, depending on your overall condition.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage iritis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with iritis:

  • Use prescription medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Wear dark glasses if light worsens your eye pain.
  • Take mild analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), to help control some of the discomfort.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: September 6, 2017 | Last Modified: September 6, 2017

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