by Dr. Robert Benza, MD 21. June 2013 09:58

What is iritis?  Many patients present with symptoms of light sensitivity, pain and tearing along with redness. This may occur in one eye or both at the same time.  It is often mistaken for conjunctivitis.  The iris is the colored part of the eye which has a muscle to adjust the size of the pupil when light hits the eye.  If the iris becomes inflammed,
the condition is known as iritis.
It typically involves an eye examination with a microscope to make the diagnosis.  Small white cells floating around in the liquid part of the eye (aqueous humor which is in the front portion of the eye) is seen on examination.  They can only be seen with a microscope (slit lamp) which makes the diagnosis difficult without seeing your eye physician. Iritis can result from trauma but usually occurs spontaneously.   It is an inflammation not an infection.   This is why it is not treated with antibiotic drops.  Some patients may have an underlying illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or other conditions which makes them more prone for iritis.  The majority of patients with iritis have no underlying illness causing their eye symptoms.
If a patient has a second case of iritis or iritis in both eyes,  it may be worthwhile ordering blood work to rule out any underlying health problems.
Treatment may vary but typically involves an anti-inflammatory medicine.   The majority of patients will respond to a steroid drop. If the case is severe,  they may need oral steroids or an injection around the eye.   As mentioned earlier,  this condition can effect both eyes but typically presents in one eye.   If you have a red eye which persists,  see your eye care professional to rule out iritis as a possible source for the problem.   Remember,  protect those eyes!



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