What Is Iritis?
Your iris is made up of muscular fibers that control how much light enters your pupil, the opening in the center, so you can see clearly. It makes your pupil smaller in bright light and larger in dim light.
Iritis usually comes on quickly and most often affects only one eye. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Pain in your eye or brow area
- Severe eye pain in bright light
- Redness, especially around your iris
- An unusually small or strangely shaped pupil
- Blurry vision or vision loss
When to get medical care
Call your eye doctor as soon as possible if you have symptoms of iritis. If you can’t reach them, go to an emergency room.
Iritis Causes and Risk Factors
In most cases, doctors don’t know what causes iritis. Sometimes, it’s tied to eye trauma or other health conditions. Causes of iritis may include:
- Injury from burns, punctures, or strikes with a blunt object
- Conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter syndrome, sarcoidosis, inflammatory bowel disease, Behcet’s disease, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis
- Infections from bacteria and viruses, including Lyme disease, tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, herpes simplex, and herpes zoster
- Infections with parasites, such as toxoplasmosis
- Infections from a fungus, such as histoplasmosis
- Reactions to medications
You might be more likely to get iritis if you smoke tobacco or if you have certain genetic disorders.
Iritis Exams and Diagnosis
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and your medical history, including whether you have a condition that can cause iritis. They’ll also do exams including:
- A visual acuity test. You might read an eye chart to check your vision.
- Pressure readings. Your doctor will measure the pressure inside your eye with a special device.
- Penlight and slit lamp exams. A small beam of light can give your doctor a good look at your eye. A slit lamp uses a magnifying lens to show more detail. You might get drops to dilate (widen) your pupil first.
If your doctor suspects that another health problem is causing your iritis, they might order blood tests, imaging tests, or tests of the fluid inside your eye.
It’s crucial to start treatment for iritis right away. You’ll probably get medicine and have follow-up visits with your doctor.
Medical treatment of Iritis
Your doctor will prescribe medication to help your eye heal and make you feel better. You might have surgery if your case is severe or if you have complications.
Drugs to treat iritis
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these medications:
- Eye drops to dilate your pupil and prevent muscle spasms
- Steroids to lessen inflammation. You’ll probably use eye drops first. If your eye isn’t better after a week, your doctor might give you pills or shots around your eye.
- Antibiotics or antivirals to fight infection
- Anticholinergic drugs to block nerve signals for pain and light sensitivity
- Medicines to slow your immune system, if the cause of your iritis is autoimmune.
Iritis treatment at home
Take these steps while you recover:
- Follow the directions on your prescription medications.
- Wear dark glasses if light makes your eye pain worse.
- Take over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen if necessary.
Follow-up care for iritis
Your doctor might want to check your eye a few days after you start treatment and then see you over the next few weeks to be sure it’s healing the way it should.
Without treatment, iritis may cause complications that can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness. These include:
- Clouded lens (cataract)
- High pressure in your eye (glaucoma)
- Scar tissue causing your iris to stick to your lens or cornea (synechiae)
- Inflammation of the vitreous gel inside your eye (vitritis) or of your retina (retinitis)
- Swelling in the back of your eye (macular edema)
- Optic nerve damage
- Calcium buildup on your cornea (band keratopathy)
Outlook for Iritis
Iritis that’s caused by an injury usually goes away within 1 or 2 weeks. Other cases may take weeks or months to clear up. If a bacteria or virus causes your iritis, it will go away after you treat the infection.
Iritis might last a long time or come back if it’s linked to a disease such as sarcoidosis or ankylosing spondylitis. Your eye doctor might tell you to keep steroid eye drops on hand so you can use them at the first sign of inflammation.