in Portland OR
What Is Iritis?
Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, which is the colored portion of the eye. The iris is part of the uvea, highly vascular fibrous tissue. This condition frequently manifests in young to middle-aged individuals and may only affect one eye. Iritis may be caused by trauma to the eye, an infection, or the effects of certain diseases.
The symptoms usually develop quite quickly and unexpectedly, but in some individuals, they form slowly. Distinguishing symptoms of iritis may include:
- Irritation and redness of the eye
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
How Is Iritis Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of iritis typically takes place after a physical examination of the eye. Your doctor may use a slit lamp to obtain a magnified view of the eye’s structures. In addition, when a light is focused on the unaffected eye, the eye with iritis will experience pain because the pupil will naturally constrict.
To treat iritis, the patient will be encouraged to wear dark glasses and take pupil dilating drops to relieve pain and pressure. Serious cases usually require extended use of steroid eye drops as well as oral steroids that suppress the immune system. When iritis results from an underlying condition such as herpes, AIDS, or syphilis, the disease may need to be treated to see improvement in the eye and iritis may become a chronic problem.
“Vision is vital to me! The medical care I receive here from Dr. Donahue is absolutely superb. She is certainly the best eye doctor I have ever seen. She and her team communicate clearly and with compassion. I have felt safe and secure as she helps me understand how to manage my conditions and how they relate to other aspects of my health. I would recommend her highly to anyone for eye care.”
Can iritis be caused by stress?
Although the cause of a patient’s iritis cannot always be pinpointed, stress is not thought to be a factor.
Is iritis contagious?
Because iritis will typically make the white of the eye red, people often assume it is contagious, like conjunctivitis. This is not the case. Because iritis is an inflammation of the iris inside the eye, it is not contagious.
Why you shouldn’t leave iritis untreated
If left untreated, iritis can lead to these problems with your eye or eyes:
- Cataracts — The telltale clouding of the lens of the eye, cataracts, is a possible complication of untreated iritis. This is especially true if there is a long period of inflammation.
- An irregular pupil — Scar tissue can cause the iris to stick to the underlying lens or the cornea, making the pupil irregular in shape and the iris sluggish in its reaction to light.
- Glaucoma — If you have recurrent iritis, this increases the odds of developing glaucoma, a dangerous eye condition where pressure builds inside the eye and can lead to vision loss.
- Calcium deposits on the cornea — Iritis can lead to this degeneration of the cornea, which can cause vision loss.
- Swelling within the retina — Swelling and fluid-filled cysts that develop in the retina at the back of the eye can blur or decrease your central vision.
How long does it take for iritis to clear?
Iritis can develop in one or both eyes, although it is more common in just one eye. Most cases develop suddenly and can last up to three months. This is an acute iritis. Chronic iritis lasts longer than three months, and this is where it can lead to the other eye problems described above.
What is the difference between iritis and conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which covers the white part of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is usually caused by allergies or bacterial or viral infection. Conjunctivitis often resolves on its own, but treatment is fast and effective with either antihistamine for allergic conjunctivitis or antibiotic eye drops for bacterial conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis doesn’t lead to vision loss or other problems.
Iritis is inflammation of the iris, the colored ring around the eye’s pupil. It is a much more serious eye condition, although outwardly one of its symptoms, reddening of the white of the eye, looks like conjunctivitis. Unlike conjunctivitis, treatments for iritis do not have immediate results. Untreated iritis can lead to an assortment of serious eye problems, including vision loss.
What you can do to prevent iritis
Traumatic iritis is due to an injury to the eye, such as blunt force trauma or a penetrating injury. Obviously, protecting your eyes can prevent this type of injury.
Iritis is also linked to a variety of infectious diseases and medical conditions, everything from inflammatory bowel disease to psoriasis to herpes. Treating any of these conditions as soon as they are discovered is key to not having them trigger iritis. Or, if iritis has already developed, it will usually heal once the infection is cured.
Chronic iritis has been linked to cigarette smoking. Researchers have concluded that compounds found in cigarette smoke stimulate inflammation of blood vessels and may be a contributing factor to the disruption of the immune system leading to iritis.
Treating Iritis with steroid eyedrops
Steroid eye drops are often the first step in the treatment of iritis. But they are only prescribed on a short-term basis to reduce inflammation. If the eye hasn’t improved within a week, treatment will change to oral medications like steroids or other anti-inflammatory agents.