Skip to main content

Iritis

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 3, 2023.

Overview

Iritis (i-RYE-tis) is swelling and irritation (inflammation) in the colored ring around your eye's pupil (iris). Another name for iritis is anterior uveitis.

The uvea is the middle layer of the eye between the retina and the white part of the eye. The iris is located in the front portion (anterior) of the uvea.

Iritis is the most common type of uveitis. Uveitis is inflammation of part of or all of the uvea. The cause is often unknown. It can result from an underlying condition or genetic factor.

If untreated, iritis could lead to glaucoma or vision loss. See your doctor as soon as possible if you have symptoms of iritis.

Eye with uvea

The uvea consists of structures of the eye beneath the white of the eye (sclera). It has three parts: (1) the iris, which is the colored part of the eye; (2) the ciliary body, which is the structure in the eye that secretes the transparent liquid within the front of the eye; and (3) the choroid, which is the layer of blood vessels between the sclera and the retina.

Symptoms

Iritis can occur in one or both eyes. It usually develops suddenly, and can last up to three months.

Signs and symptoms of iritis include:

Iritis that develops suddenly, over hours or days, is known as acute iritis. Symptoms that develop gradually or last longer than three months indicate chronic iritis.

When to see a doctor

See an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) as soon as possible if you have symptoms of iritis. Prompt treatment helps prevent serious complications. If you have eye pain and vision problems with other signs and symptoms, you might need urgent medical care.

Causes

Often, the cause of iritis can't be determined. In some cases, iritis can be linked to eye trauma, genetic factors or certain diseases. Causes of iritis include:

Risk factors

Your risk of developing iritis increases if you:

Complications

If not treated properly, iritis could lead to:

Diagnosis

Your eye doctor will conduct a complete eye exam, including:

If your eye doctor suspects that a disease or condition is causing your iritis, he or she may work with your primary care doctor to pinpoint the underlying cause. In that case, further testing might include blood tests or X-rays to identify or rule out specific causes.

Treatment

Iritis treatment is designed to preserve vision and relieve pain and inflammation. For iritis associated with an underlying condition, treating that condition also is necessary.

Most often, treatment for iritis involves:

If your symptoms don't clear up, or seem to worsen, your eye doctor might prescribe oral medications that include steroids or other anti-inflammatory agents, depending on your overall condition.

Preparing for an appointment

Make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in eye care — an optometrist or an ophthalmologist — who can evaluate iritis and perform a complete eye exam.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Make a list of:

Take a family member or friend to your appointment, if possible, to help you remember information you're given. Also, having your pupils dilated for the eye exam will affect your vision for a time afterward, so it might be helpful to have someone drive you home.

For iritis, some questions to ask your doctor include:

What to expect from your eye doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:

© 1998-2024 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use.

Learn more about Iritis

Treatment options

Care guides