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Elizabeth A. Davis, M.D.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School
October 15, 2002

What is iritis?
The eye contains a structure called the iris, the color of which determines the color of oneÕs eyes. The iris consists of a relatively flat surface with a round opening in the middle called the pupil. The iris muscles, by contracting or relaxing, can change the size of the pupil to let more or less light INTO the eyes. When inflammation of the iris develops, this is termed iritis.

What are the causes of iritis?
Most often, the cause is not known. However, iritis may be associated with various forms of autoimmune arthritides, infections, and malignancies.

How do I know if I have iritis?
People who have iritis experience eye pain, sensitivity to light, and/or blurry vision. The eye may be red but without any discharge. The pupil may be small. Symptoms occur most frequently in one eye but can occasionally occur in both eyes. An eye physician (ophthalmologist) can tell if you have iritis by examining your eye.

How is iritis treated?
Treatment is aimed at decreasing inflammation. Steroid eye drops are often prescribed. Also, a dilating eye DROP will often be used concurrently to relax the irritated iris. This decreases the discomfort of iritis and prevents the inflamed iris FROM sticking to the lens. Laboratory tests may be ordered by your ophthalmologist to determine a treatable cause of the iritis.

In most cases, topical eye drops are all that is needed to relieve the symptoms of iritis. However, a small percentage of patients will require steroid injections or oral steroids. This is particularly true if the disease is bilateral or does not respond well to topical treatment.

Iritis may recur, and it is not uncommon for patients to have multiple episodes of iritis even with proper treatment.

Who treats iritis and where can I go if I think I have developed it?
Ophthalmologists, medical doctors (M.D.s) specialized in eye diseases, can diagnose and treat iritis. In the New England area, an appointment with an ophthalmologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary can be made by calling the General Eye Service at (617)-573-3202.

The information and recommendations appearing on these pages are informational only and is not intended to be a basis for diagnosis, treatment or any other clinical application. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, the DJO suggests that you consult your physician.