What is Iritis?

Iritis is a condition where the iris of the eye becomes inflamed. The iris is the ring around your pupil that determines the color of your eye. The iris is considered the middle layer of your eye. Iritis is a form of uveitis, which is also referred to as anterior uveitis.

Most of the time, the cause of iritis is unknown and cannot be determined by an ophthalmologist. Typically, the underlying reason for the condition is eventually determined to be genetic or systemic.

What are the Symptoms of Iritis?

The symptoms of iritis can vary depending on the severity of the condition.

Symptoms include

  • Redness of the eye
  • Aching or discomfort in the eye.
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • The appearance of floating spots or specks in the line of vision.

Acute iritis appears suddenly over a period of hours or even days. Symptoms typically only last for about six weeks, after the six week period, it is referred to as chronic iritis.

Iritis Causes

Iritis can be caused by a wide range of things. Sometimes blunt trauma to the eye or a penetrative eye injury can cause it. Similarly, burns from chemicals or heat might trigger it.

In other cases of acute iritis infection is to blame.

Shingles tends to be a common cause if it occurs on the face, but the following infectious diseases may also be to blame:

  • Histoplasmosis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Syphilis

Some people are simply genetically predisposed to iritis, usually as a result of autoimmune diseases such as:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reiter’s syndrome

Other medical conditions which are linked with iritis include:

  • Behcet’s disease
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis

Certain medications used to treat HIV infections can also lead to iritis. This includes rifabutin, a type of antibiotic, and codifovir, an antiviral medication.

How is Iritis Treated?

Treatments for iritis concentrate on preserving the vision that was present before the condition appeared. It also concentrates on alleviating inflammation in the eye. If the condition was caused by an underlying medical condition, it will need to be treated as well in order to effectively treat the iritis.

Treatments include

There are two main treatments for iritis. Both of them focus on helping the body to heal faster. Steroid eye drops are given as a means of helping reduce the inflammation in the eye and aid the eye in healing faster.

Dilating eye drops are used to dilate your pupil. Dilating the pupil can reduce the pain felt in the iris.

If these treatments do not relieve the discomfort and swelling associated with the condition, your ophthalmologist may prescribe oral steroids and anti-inflammatory medications to treat your condition. However, your doctor must take into account the underlying condition and the severity of your iritis before prescribing oral medications.

Iritis Prevention

Not all instances of iritis can be prevented, particularly those which are caused by autoimmune disorders or other chronic medical conditions. However, it may be possible to prevent iritis by protecting the eye from injury.

Eye protection should be worn in any environment where injury to the eye is possible. For example, those who work regularly with chemicals should wear appropriate goggles and gloves to avoid getting chemicals in the eye in the event of a spill. When working with materials which could fly up into the eye, for example when woodworking, it’s also important to wear eye protection.

To avoid contracting eye infections which could lead to iritis, take care to avoid touching the eyes when hands are dirty. Always wash hands before touching the eyes or applying cosmetics. Never share cosmetics or application tools used directly on the eyes with other people without disinfecting them first, and always throw away and replace cosmetics after the length of time stipulated on the packaging.

Last Reviewed:
October 06, 2016
Last Updated:
March 14, 2018