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What Is the Cause of Iritis?

Viral infections can cause iritis.
Article Details
  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Iritis is an inflammatory condition of the eye that may be brought on by a variety of conditions and situations, such as autoimmune disorders, trauma, and viral infections. Cancer, bacteria, and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause iritis. It is also possible for the cause of iritis to be idiopathic, meaning it has no known cause. Treatment for iritis generally involves the use of eye drops and protecting the eye from environmental factors, such as sunlight, as it heals.

Individuals with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, including Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid spondylitis, are often considered at greatest risk for iritis. Conditions such as these cause widespread inflammation throughout the body, and the eyes are not exempt. Similarly, some cancers, especially those affecting the lymph nodes, can be another cause of iritis.

It is entirely possible for someone without an existing inflammatory condition to develop iritis. Trauma to the eye that causes swelling or inflammation can initiate iritis symptoms. Viral and bacterial infections can also contribute ocular inflammation. Individuals with certain sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, are considered at risk for iritis. Additional conditions associated with iritis include psoriasis, AIDS, and tuberculosis.

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Iritis occurs when the eye’s iris becomes inflamed and irritated. Also known as uveitis, iritis may bypass the iris to settle in the area behind the retina. If this occurs, the condition is known as chorioretinitis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, individuals with autoimmune diseases can easily develop iritis that affects the middle part of the eye, including the retina.

A diagnosis of iritis is usually made with a comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist. Considering iritis’ association with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, individuals without these conditions may undergo additional testing to discount them. An essential part of diagnosis is to determine the cause of iritis.

Regardless of the cause of iritis, signs and symptoms are patterned. Ocular inflammation will impair one’s vision and cause the eye to appear bloodshot. It is not uncommon to see floaters, or dark spots that drift across one’s line of vision. Some people experience eye discomfort and a heightened light sensitivity. If iritis is allowed to progress without treatment, complication can occur, including glaucoma and blindness.

Treatment for iritis is centered on alleviating inflammation. Eye drops are generally prescribed to be used in their entirety as directed. If an existing inflammatory condition is the cause of iritis, additional steroidal medications may be given to alleviate inflammation. Infection-based iritis requires antibiotics. Individuals are usually instructed to take precautionary measures to protect the affected eye from harsh and natural light.

It is important to understand that iritis can be a recurrent condition; therefore, it is essential to take appropriate measures to reduce the risk for future episodes. With appropriate treatment, most individuals with iritis make a full recovery without complication. If one’s iritis is severe, irreparable ocular damage is possible.

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