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Iritis is the inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. It is caused by numerous conditions, including autoimmune disorders, viruses and bacterial infection, or traumatic eye injury. Iritis may also be called anterior uveitis.
Iris inflammation allows white blood cells, called leukocytes, to collect beneath the iris, and then diffuse to the other parts of the eye. This may first be noticed as red or irritated looking eyes. As well, the white part of the eye may appear cloudy or gray as inflammation develops.
Iritis usually affects only one eye, and common symptoms include a small or misshapen pupil, pain in the eye and the brow area, headache, increased tear production, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. These symptoms should be brought to the attention of a medical professional immediately, as untreated inflammation can cause blindness.
Proper treatment almost always resolves the condition so blindness does not occur. Left untreated, iritis may also cause cataracts, which can significantly impair sight. The iris may also permanently attach to the cornea as it swells.
Iritis symptoms can indicate an infection of another part of the body. For example, it might be accompanied by kidney pain, suggesting kidney infection. In addition, eye inflammation may indicate several serious viruses like Lyme disease, syphilis, or tuberculosis. Iritis is, however, most frequently caused by autoimmune disorders, and when infectious or viral origins of iritis cannot be determined, investigation for autoimmune disorders should commence.
Along with examination of the eye, a healthcare provider will take a full patient history to determine possible links to either serious viruses or autoimmune disorders. Patients may be asked to disclose their sexual history, since several sexually transmitted diseases can cause this condition.
Treatment goals are to reduce inflammation and to relax the iris. Often, the eye is dilated to cause the pupil to relax. Steroidal, or antibiotic drops, depending on the cause, can reduce swelling. Usually, it takes approximately six to eight weeks for a case of iritis to resolve. If the inflammation arises from an autoimmune condition, it may occur again, and those who have such conditions should be aware of symptoms in the future that might suggest another bout.
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