IRITIS, a form of Anterior Uveitis is a term for an inflammatory disorder of the colored part of the eye (iris). In the majority of cases there is no specific cause. Occasionally, iritis is just one symptom of a disease that affects other organ systems. These are called connective tissue diseases and include: rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoid, lupus, scleroderma, Behcet’s disease, anklylosing spondylitis, Reiter’s disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and B-27 disease. Sometimes, it is necessary to establish whether iritis/uveitis is a manifestation of one of these or some other underlying systemic disease. Your eye care provider may ask a detailed medical history, and may order a battery of tests including several possible blood tests, a chest x-ray, x-rays of the lower back, and a skin test for tuberculosis.
The symptoms of iritis include light sensitivity, red eye, blurred vision, tearing, pain, and sometimes floaters & flashers. The pupil may appear small in the affected eye when compared to the normal pupil. Frequently iritis is a recurrent problem; after a few episodes patients become very astute at early diagnosis. Iritis is sometimes confused with conjunctivitis, a much less serious disorder of the clear outer lining of the eye.
The secrets to the successful treatment of iritis is early detection and proper choice of medicines. Therapy consists of anti-inflammatory and dilating drops. These medicines decrease the inflammation and reduce the scarring that can occur. Persistent cases may require more intensive treatment. Successful treatment of iritis depends on careful and consistent compliance by the patient.
In serious cases, complications may arise. Cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal changes are possible consequences of both the disease and the medicines used to treat it. Careful observation is needed in the resolving phase to monitor potential problems. If the medicines are withdrawn too rapidly, a recurrence is very possible.
What are the symptoms of iritis?
The symptoms of iritis usually appear suddenly and develop rapidly over a few hours or days. Iritis commonly causes pain, tearing, light sensitivity and blurred vision. A red eye often occurs as a result of iritis. Some patients may experience floaters, small specks or dots moving in the field of vision. In addition, the pupil may become smaller in the eye affected by iritis.
How is iritis diagnosed?
A careful eye exam is extremely important when the symptoms of iritis occur, as inflammation inside the eye can affect sight and could lead to blindness. A slit lamp, which illuminates and magnifies the structures of the eye, is commonly used to detect any signs of inflammation. A diagnosis is often made on the basis of an eye examination from an eye care provider.
Since iritis can be associated with another disease, an evaluation of the patient¹s overall health is sometimes necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, blood tests, skin tests, and x-rays may be conducted and other specialists may be consulted to determine the cause of the inflammation.
How is iritis treated?
Treatment of iritis is often directed at finding and removing the cause of the inflammation. Steroid eye drops (1% Pred Forte) and ointments are the main stay of treatment. They work by quieting the inflammation. Additionally drops that dilate the pupil may be added to reduce any scarring which may occur and make the eye more comfortable. The application of hot packs may also provide relief from the symptoms of iritis. In severe cases, oral medications and injections may be added.
A case of iritis usually lasts 6 to 8 weeks. During this time, the patient must be observed carefully to monitor potential side effects from medications and any complications which may occur. Cataracts, glaucoma, corneal changes, and secondary inflammation of the retina may occur as a result of iritis and the medications used to treat the disorder.
Loss of sight can be prevented:
Since iritis is an inflammation inside the eye, the condition is potentially sight threatening. Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment of iritis are essential. To minimize any loss of vision, the patient should have a complete eye examination as soon as symptoms occur. If diagnosed in the early stages, iritis can usually be controlled with the use of eye drops before vision loss occurs.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of iritis or have other vision problems, you should consult your eye care provider.