The iris is the colored part of your eye that surrounds the pupil.  The iris controls the amount of light entering the eye by enlarging or reducing the size of the pupil.  Iritis occurs when the iris becomes inflamed.  Symptoms of iritis may include eye pain, redness, blurred vision and light sensitivity.  Iritis episodes can occur just once in a patient, but they are more likely to be recurring events.  The terms ‘uveitis’ and ‘iridocyclitis’ are often used interchangeably with the term ‘iritis’.

Researchers have not identified what triggers an iritis episode.  Iritis can be associated with systemic diseases such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, Behcet’s Disease, Reiter’s Syndrome, tuberculosis and autoimmune diseases, but the bulk of iritis cases have no underlying systemic cause.

Because the symptoms of iritis episodes are so profound, the great majority of patients immediately seek medical attention.  An eye doctor or emergency room physician can apply steroid and dilating eye drops to reduce the inflammation and pain.  Patients will taper off the steroid drops over a period of a few days or weeks.

Iritis can cause permanent visual loss if left untreated.  In addition, recurrent episodes may induce glaucoma, scarring of the iris and lens, and early cataract formation.  Unfortunately, long-term steroid treatment may cause or exacerbate glaucoma, so it’s important that your eye doctor is actively managing the disease.

The animation below provides an overview of the iris.

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