If you’ve recently been diagnosed, “What is Iritis?”, is the number one question we get asked on Iritis.org. Iritis is the inflammation of the front part of the eye (iris).The condition is also known as anterior uveitis. Read more about the differences between uveitis and iritis. The iris is made up of muscular fibers that regulate the amount of light that enters the pupil to enable you to see clearly. The iris accomplishes this by enlarging the pupil in dim light or making it smaller in bright light. Inflammation of the iris usually results in the shedding of white blood cells in the chamber of the eye. As a result the leukocytes can be seen floating in the aqueous humor when the eye is observed using a slit lamp. The cells can be counted and their presence is considered among the tell-tale symptoms of iritis.

What causes Iritis?

Iritis is a complex condition and may have many causes, these range from trauma to autoimmune disorders, however in some cases, no specific cause can be identified. Likely causes of this condition include:

  • Infections – such as Lyme disease, herpes simplex, toxoplasmosis and herpes zoster can cause iritis.
  • Trauma – blunt force to the eye, burn from chemical or fire, or a penetrating injury can cause iritis.
  • Genetic predisposition – People who develop certain autoimmune conditions due to gene alteration that affects their immune system usually develop acute iritis. These autoimmune conditions include Ankylosing Spondylitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriasis, Behcet syndrome and Ulcerative colitis just to name a few. It should be noted that children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are at a high risk of developing chronic iritis.
  • Medications – Some drugs such as antibiotic rifabutin and antiviral medication such as cidofovir commonly used to treat HIV infections are known to cause iritis. When a person stops using these drugs, the symptoms usually ceases.

What are the symptoms of Iritis?

  • Reddened eye, especially in the area adjacent to the iris
  • Irregularly shaped or small pupil
  • Pain or discomfort in the eye, this can also occur around the brow region
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia), this can be accompanied by pain in the eye when you are exposed to bright light
  • Floaters-these are dark spots that float in the visual field

What are the complications of Iritis?

This condition can cause ocular problems such as iris attachments to the lens and other eye structures, glaucoma, swelling in the back of the eye, inflammation in the vitreous as well as accumulation of calcium on the cornea. In severe cases, the person may suffer from papillitis. These complications can cause severe visual loss or blindness.

What treatments are available for Iritis?

Treating this condition usually depends on the severity of the ocular inflammation. Topical steroid eye drops are the standard treatment of iritis. In some instances, steroid can be administered as an injection around the eye; alternatively it can be taken orally. Dilating eye drops are often used to prevent the iris from sticking to the ocular tissues especially the lens. Patients that have recurring iritis should consider alternative immunomodulating or biologic drugs.

What is Iritis?

If you still have questions on iritis check out my book, Living With Uveitis, that explains the disease in detail.