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.
What is non-traumatic iritis?
Non-traumatic iritis is associated with these diseases and medical conditions:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lyme disease
- Herpes simplex
- An outbreak of eye shingles (herpes zoster) on the face
- A weakened immune system
- An autoimmune disorder
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Certain types of arthritis
- Reiter’s syndrome (the combination of arthritis, uveitis, and conjunctivitis)
Iritis caused by an infectious disease will resolve when the infection is cured. Obviously, this is not the case with ongoing or systemic diseases.
What is traumatic iritis?
Traumatic iritis is the other category of this eye inflammation. This occurs because of injury to the eye, such as blunt force trauma that causes swelling, a penetrating injury, burns, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
With treatment, the patient’s iritis can take a couple weeks to clear up. There is a slight possibility of permanent vision damage.
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.
Causes of Iris Inflammation:
The causes of iritis cannot always be determined. Causes of iritis include:
- Injury to the eye — A penetrating injury, blunt force trauma, or a burn can cause acute iritis.
- Infections — Viral infections on your face, such as cold sores and shingles caused by herpes viruses, can cause iritis. Infectious disease from other viruses and bacteria have also been linked to a person developing iritis. These can be lung infections such as tuberculosis, parasitic infections such as toxoplasmosis, and sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis, among others.
- Genetics — It has been shown that a gene alteration can affect if a person develops certain autoimmune diseases, as in inflammatory bowel disease, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and others. This gene alteration may also lead the person to develop iritis.
- Behcet’s disease — This is a more common cause in developing nations, but this disease characterized by joint problems, mouth sores, and genital sores also leads to iritis.
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis — Children with rheumatoid arthritis often develop chronic iritis.
- Sarcoidosis — This autoimmune disease involves the growth of collections of inflammatory cells in areas of your body, including your eyes.
- Certain medications — Some antibiotic and antiviral drugs used to treat HIV infections can cause iritis, although stopping their use usually also stops the iritis.
What are the Symptoms of Iritis?
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.
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 is Iritis Treated?
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.”
What you might need to do before your appointment
When you’ve scheduled an appointment to have your potential iritis checked out at The Eye Clinic, you’ll want to make a list of certain items:
- The symptoms you are experiencing and their onset date
- Any medications you are taking and their dosages
- Key personal information including recent eye trauma or injury, family history, particularly if any family member has an autoimmune disorder
- Any questions you want to ask
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.
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.
What are the risk factors of Iritis?
Your risk of developing iritis increases if you…
- 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.
- 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 — Cigarette smoking creates a higher risk of iritis.
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.
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.
When should I call The Eye Clinic?
As soon as you notice the symptoms described above, you should call Dr. Wilkins or Dr. Donohue at The Eye Clinic. Prompt treatment helps prevent the serious complications described on this page. In cases of eye pain or problems with your vision, you may need emergency care.