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Iritis is the inflammation of the iris (the ring of coloured tissue surrounding the pupil of the eye). Iritis is the most common form of a family of conditions called uveitis. The uvea extends from the front to the back of the eye and comprises the iris, the ciliary body which is next to the iris and the choroid body which is at the back of the eye surface. Anterior uveitis predominantly involves the iris, but the ciliary body can be involved as well. In this case it is called iridocyclitis.

Alternative Names of Iritis are: Pars planitis; Choroiditis; Chorioretinitis; Anterior uveitis; Posterior uveitis.

Complications of Iritis

  • Blindness is the ultimate but relatively rare complication. Recurrent pain and blurring of vision may occur. If the pupil becomes scarred, it is unable to react, thereby losing some of the ability to adjust to different light conditions.
  • Glaucoma secondary to iritis may cause pain and result in blindness.

Causes of Iritis

  • Certain medical conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and sarcoidosis are associated with iritis.
  • It can also result from an infection in another part of the body (such as shingles, chickenpox or the cold sore virus) that spreads to the eye.
  • Injury to the eye and eye surgery may also bring on an attack of iritis.
  • In many cases, the cause of iritis is unknown.

Signs & Symptoms of Iritis

  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness of the eye
  • Watering of the eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Floating spots in the field of vision
  • A smaller pupil in the affected eye (occasionally)

Generally, the eye is not sticky or crusty. These symptoms are more suggestive of conjunctivitis.

Diagnosis of Iritis

An ophthalmologist will use an instrument called a slit lamp to examine the inside of the eye and can usually make the diagnosis on the basis of this examination.

Since iritis may be associated with disease elsewhere in the body, the ophthalmologist will require a thorough understanding of your overall health. This may involve consultation with other medical specialists.

The ophthalmologist may also request blood tests, X-rays and other specialized tests to establish the cause of iritis.

Treatments of Iritis

  • Eye drops (especially steroids such as prednisolone or dexamethasone) and pupil dilators are medications used to reduce inflammation and pain in the front of the eye.
  • The steroid drops may need to be instilled frequently (in severe cases, as often as every half hour). Your ophthalmologist will arrange to see you again to assess the progress of the treatment and will, according to the degree of inflammation, decrease or increase the treatment at this stage.
  • Pupil-dilating drops (such as cyclopentolate or atropine) make you feel more comfortable and prevent certain complications of iritis. However, you may become more sensitive to bright light, lose the ability to focus on near objects and your vision may become more blurred.
  • Wear dark glasses if exposure to light is uncomfortable.

Prevention of Iritis

Prevention of Iritis is impossible to pinpoint as no one knows why people have recurrent attacks at particular times. However there is scientific evidence that stress may be a key factor.

When to seek Medical Advice
Contact your ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery) if any of the following signs or symptoms are present:

  • Significant eye pain, including pain associated with bright light, blurred vision.
  • Redness in the eye, especially around the iris.
  • Sensitivity to light and watering of the eye.
  • Or if, one pupil is smaller than the other.

If you cannot reach your ophthalmologist, then seek medical attention at a hospital's emergency department.

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