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Iritis

Iritis is inflammation of the coloured part of the eye, causing painful, aching eyes and blurred vision.

Iritis may due to an injury, infections or conditions such as arthritis.

This condition usually affects one eye at a time, and once a person has experienced iritis, it is likely to come back again at a later stage.

Iritis symptoms

Iritis usually develops quickly and generally affects only one eye. Signs and symptoms may include any or all of the following:

  • Pain in the eye or brow region
  • Worsened eye pain when exposed to bright light
  • Reddened eye, especially adjacent to the iris
  • Small or funny shaped pupil
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache

When to seek medical care

Tell your doctor or eye specialist if any of the following signs or symptoms are present:

  • Eye pain, including pain associated with bright light
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness in the eye, especially around the iris

Questions to ask the eye specialist

  • Are there any signs of permanent damage to the eye?
  • Are there any signs of permanent vision loss?

Examinations and tests

The diagnosis of iritis is confirmed by examining the eye with a slit lamp (a special microscope designed for eye examination). Your eye specialist can see cells (white blood cells) and flare (particles of protein) in the aqueous humour (fluid that is produced in the eye).

Two other physical tests help your eye specialist diagnose iritis:

  • Topical anaesthetics do not relieve the pain associated with iritis.
  • Shining light in the normal, unaffected eye causes pain in the affected eye if iritis is present. This is because shining light in one eye causes both pupils to constrict. So, movement of the affected iris causes pain.

Iritis treatment self-care at home

Iritis requires prescription medication and follow-up visits with an eye specialist, so seeking medical advice is very important.

  • Use prescription medication exactly as prescribed
  • Wear dark glasses if light worsens your eye pain
  • Take mild painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help control some of the discomfort

Medication

Treatment includes the use of a medication (in the form of eyedrops) to dilate (widen) the pupil and to prevent spasm of the iris muscles so that the inflamed iris can rest. This allows for healing and helps decrease the eye pain.

Steroid eyedrops are also prescribed unless an infectious agent (virus or bacteria) caused the iritis. Steroid eyedrops help decrease the inflammation of the iris. If the eye does not improve within a week, your eye specialist may consider prescribing oral steroids, or steroid injections around the eye. The duration of treatment depends on the severity of disease and how well the eye improves with the treatment.

Next steps follow-up

In all cases of iritis, follow-up care with your eye specialist is essential. In cases of non-traumatic iritis, your eye specialist will evaluate you for the presence of associated diseases.

Outlook

Traumatic iritis usually goes away within one to two weeks. Non-traumatic iritis may take weeks, and occasionally months, to resolve.

Infectious causes of iritis will resolve once measures are taken to treat the infection.

Certain cases of iritis (those associated with systemic diseases, such as sarcoidosis or ankylosing spondylitis) may be chronic or recurrent.

Eye specialists may instruct certain people who are at high risk of having recurrent iritis to always have steroid eyedrops on hand so that they may begin using them at the first sign of a recurrence.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 11, 2014

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