The eye inflammations termed Iritis and Uveitis seem to be interchangeable in all of the medical literature and websites. Is there a difference?
Yes, there is a difference, but only in terms of re-naming. Both are inflammations of the general iris, with the letters “itis” at the end of the words – the suffix – denoting inflammation.
Uveitis is the main disorder of the iris with three categories – one of those categories is given ANOTHER name – Iritis. The confusion arises since the alternative named category Iritis forms 90% of the incidence of the main disorder Uveitis.
What it all means is that for 90% of cases Iritis and Uveitis ARE the same thing!
Iritis – What it is?
Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, the coloured part of the eye. As said before it is part of the uveitis family, and is denoted as “anterior uveitis”, anterior meaning front.
Appearing in the young and middle aged, it is important that the inflammation is diagnosed and categorised correctly since without the appropriate course of treatment permanent visual problems may be the result.
Unfortunately there is no cure at the moment, but individual bouts of inflammation (they do return) can be dealt with quite satisfactorily and further complications avoided.
Symptoms appear quite quickly and can be a mixture of:
• Watery eyes
• Decreased or blurred vision
• Pink eye – the eye becomes slightly bloodshot
• Eye pain – this may be mild to strong and increases with bright light
The symptoms are more likely to appear in one eye rather than in both eyes simultaneously.
The direct causes are not known with certainty but there are several trains of thought:
• Auto immune diseases of some kind including arthritis
• Some infections such as the Herpes cold sore virus, shingles, and even syphilis
• Up to 70% of iritis have no known cause and are termed idiopathic
Corticosteroids in eye drop form are the safest treatment as they are physically absorbed by the eye and not the rest of the body, reducing pain and inflammation.
It may be necessary to take the eye drops every hour or so for a few days during the first part of treatment so quite a bit of discipline and dedication is needed on the part of the patient. The whole treatment regime can take up to three months.
Pupil diluting eye drops may also be administered to protect the iris from further complications and reduce pain. A side effect of this treatment however can make the eyes more sensitive to light, which they may have already become during the progress of the inflammation.
Another side effect can be an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), for one person in twenty. Since IOP has a correlation with occurrence of glaucoma, this has to be monitored.
Completion of the treatment would involve testing for other underlying infections or diseases to assess if these are the cause of the Iritis, and if diagnosed would also need attention.
Iritis is not able to be cured completely, but it can be successfully managed. Having said that many patients experience one case of iritis and never get another case again.