Iritis is the inflammation of the colored part of your eye (iris). It also affects the front part of the eye between the cornea and the iris (anterior chamber). Iritis can lead to serious problems. It can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
The iris goes around the black part of your eye (pupil). It controls the size of your pupil. By doing this, it controls how much light enters your eye. The anterior chamber is in front of your iris. It is a fluid-filled space at the front of your eye. With iritis, this whole area may be inflamed.
Iritis is a type of uveitis. This is inflammation of the uvea. The uvea includes the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid.
Iritis may be more common than most people realize. Uveitis is a leading cause of blindness. It can affect children and adults of all ages. It may be slightly more common in young and middle-aged adults.
Iritis can be caused by many different things, such as:
In many cases, the cause is not known.
Certain genes may make it more likely that you will get iritis.
Having a health problem that can cause iritis may raise your risk as well. Being female raises your risk for certain kinds of autoimmune diseases linked to iritis.
One or both eyes may show symptoms. These can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of iritis may include:
You may have only one case of iritis. You may be more likely to have repeated cases if you have an underlying inflammatory disease. Your eye symptoms may tend to be more severe as well.
Your eye care provider (ophthalmologist) makes the diagnosis with a health history and a physical exam. This includes a full eye exam. Your provider may look into your eye with a slit lamp microscope. This magnifies the surface and the inside of your eye. He or she may also place eye drops that contain dye onto your eye. This gives him or her a closer look at the clear layer that covers the front of your eye (the cornea). Your provider will try to find out if the iritis is caused by an infection.
Other symptoms can also give clues about the possible cause. You may need more tests to find the exact cause. For example, you may need:
Your treatment will depend on the cause and severity of your iritis. Ideally, treatment should start as soon as possible. This can help prevent the condition from getting worse. It can also help prevent possible damage to eye tissue. Possible treatments include:
Your eye care provider may choose to give some of these medicines in the form of eye drops, by mouth, or through an IV (intravenous) line. Or they may be given as a shot (injection) around or into your eye.
You might need surgery to treat some complications from iritis. These include cataracts or glaucoma.
With quick treatment, iritis often goes away without causing any other problems. But some people do have complications from iritis.
Possible complications from iritis include:
If severe, these complications can cause part or total vision loss. Your eye care provider will try to prevent these complications by treating your iritis right away. This often requires frequent dosing of medicines to bring the inflammation down.
You might need medicines to treat complications such as glaucoma. In severe cases, you may need surgery to treat one of these complications. For example, you may need surgery to remove a cataract or to fix your cornea.
Your risk of complications may vary based on your age, your other health conditions, and the cause of your iritis.
There is not much you can do to prevent iritis. If you have an autoimmune condition, taking your medicines as prescribed may help prevent iritis. You may reduce your chance for problems if you see your eye care provider at the first sign of symptoms. Keep any follow-up appointments to make sure your iritis responds to treatment.
If you have certain health conditions, you may need regular eye exams to check for early signs of iritis. For example, if you have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, you will need regular screenings. That's because vision loss is often the first symptom. Going to all your screening visits may help prevent problems from iritis.
Call your healthcare provider or eye care provider right away if you have any symptoms. This includes eye pain or reduced vision. You may need to see an eye care provider that same day. Also call your healthcare provider if your symptoms don't get better.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Article Last Updated: February 14, 2019
© 2000-2020 StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.