What is Iritis?
The Iris is the colored part of the eye and its primary function is to control the amount of light entering the eye by regulating the size of the pupil.
Iritis is a condition in which our body’s immune system gets confused and attacks the iris. Iritis is much more common in patients with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis. If left untreated, iritis can spread to other parts of the eye resulting in severe vision loss.
Signs and Symptoms of Iritis
The most common symptom of iritis is a sudden onset, dull, throbbing pain in one eye. The affected eye is usually very light sensitive and vision is mildly blurred. A general redness without mattering is also usually present. Iritis is not contagious.
What Causes Iritis?
Iritis is usually caused by a confused immune system attacking the iris, mistaking it for a foreign tissue. This is a common theme in other inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Iritis can also be associated with trauma to the eye such as a corneal abrasion or a blunt injury to the eye. Herpes infections in the eye can also cause iritis.
How is Iritis Diagnosed?
Unfortunately, iritis is often misdiagnosed as a simple pinkeye or conjunctivitis. To properly diagnose iritis, your eye doctor will examine you with a lighted microscope called a slit lamp. Inflammatory cells and small amounts of blood are usually seen floating in front of the pupil. In some cases, the inflammation can move further back into the eye so your eye doctor will dilate the pupil and fully inspect the inside of the eye.
How is Iritis Treated?
Treatment for iritis usually depends upon the severity of the condition. In most cases, iritis is treated with a two-pronged approach. First the iris needs to be completely relaxed, similar to putting an injured arm in a sling. This is accomplished by using potent pupil dilation drops such as atropine. These have the unfortunate side effect of blurred near vision and light sensitivity as well as an odd appearance of one big pupil and one normal pupil. Second, the inflammation must be controlled before it spreads further into the eye. This is accomplished by using steroid eye drops such as prednisone. Depending on the severity, these drops may be used as often as every 15 minutes around the clock. If the inflammation is very severe and has moved deeper into the eye, steroids such as Kenolog may have to be injected into the eye. Ouch. Even with proper treatment, iritis may take several weeks to resolve and often recurs. Patients who have repeated cases of iritis should also have a full genetic workup which will test for other conditions related to the iritis.
What Steps Should I Take if I Think I Have Iritis?
We recommend making an appointment to see Dr. Reinders as quickly as possible before the iritis spreads to other parts of the eye. He has 22 of years of experience treating patients with iritis and other related conditions. The sooner you can check your eyes, the better. All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.