A potential cause of a red and painful eye is iritis, or inflammation of the iris. This condition may be recurrent and cause many symptoms like light sensitivity, eye pain, and eye irritation.
About the Iris
The iris is the colored portion of the eye that is behind the cornea and in front of the vitreous and retina.
This structure is responsible for changing the size of the pupil to allow more or less light into the eye in dark or bright environments.
Typically, the iris is not affected by eye conditions such as scrapes, scratches, or other injuries to the front of the eye.
Causes of Iritis
Most cases of iritis do not have a definite cause but are instead due to an unknown cause.
These cases will often occur spontaneously and will not typically have any recurrences.
However, if there are multiple cases of iritis over time, there is likely an underlying cause of the inflammation.
These causes can potentially be an autoimmune condition or latent infection.
Autoimmune conditions including ankylosing spondylitis, Behcet’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus have been linked to recurrent cases of iritis.
Infections like syphilis and herpes may also cause iritis due to their ability to exist in the body in an inactive form and then reactivate.
Symptoms of Iritis
The symptoms of iritis are often more dramatic than the signs seen on the eye. Symptoms include severe light sensitivity, eye pain, and eye irritation.
Signs include a red, bloodshot eye and potentially a swollen or edematous iris.
These symptoms are mostly related to the function of the iris to change the size of the pupil. When the iris changes in shape, there is lots of movement and fluctuation in the shape of the iris.
This movement can cause intense pain when the iris is inflamed or otherwise compromised by iritis.
Treatments for Iritis
To treat iritis, an eye exam performed by an eye doctor is necessary. The eye doctor can then determine the best course of treatment for the iritis.
Potential treatments include a steroid eye drop to reduce the inflammation inside the eyes, a dilating eye drop to stop the iris from being able to move freely, or even pain medication – including over the counter pain medications – to reduce the overall pain.
Based on the severity of the iritis, one or more of these treatments may be used.
Management of Autoimmune Causes of Iritis
If there are multiple cases of iritis over a short period of time, the likelihood of an underlying cause is much greater.
In these cases, your doctor may order blood work to determine if you are at risk for any particular autoimmune condition.
If the blood work flags anything as abnormal, your eye doctor will refer to either your primary care doctor or a rheumatologist to manage the underlying autoimmune condition.
When the underlying autoimmune condition is managed properly, the likelihood of recurrence is much lower for cases of iritis.
This is an important step for managing any repeat case of iritis and will reduce the likelihood of additional cases.