Iritis – symptoms, causes, risk factors and other complications

Iritis symptoms, causes and risk factors, Anterior uveitis

Iritis is inflammation which is affecting the colored ring of our eye’s pupil (known as iris). Iris is taking a part of the middle layer of our eye (known as uvea). Iritis is a type of uveitis which is also known as anterior uveitis. The most common type of uveitis is the one which is affecting the front of your eye. The cause for this condition is often unknown. This condition can result from genetic factor or from an underlying systemic condition. If you leave this condition untreated, then it can lead to vision loss or glaucoma. If you have symptoms of this condition, then you need to talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Symptoms of iritis

This condition can happen in one eye or it can happen in both eyes. Here are the signs and symptoms:

  • Decreased vision [1]
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia) [2]
  • Discomfort or achiness in the affected eye
  • Eye redness

Acute iritis is iritis which develops suddenly, over hour or days. Chronic iritis has symptoms that develop gradually or last longer than 6 weeks. If you have noticed some of the above mentioned symptoms of iritis, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Prompt treatment can prevent serious complications. If you have vision problems and eye pain with other signs and symptoms, then you may need urgent medical care.

Causes: In many cases, the cause for iritis cannot be determined. In some cases, it can be linked to certain diseases, genetic factors or eye trauma. Following are some of the causes:

  • Sarcoidosis: This is autoimmune disease which involves the growth of collections of inflammatory cells – glaucomas in areas of our bodies in which our eyes are also included. [3]
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: Children who suffer from this condition can develop chronic iritis. [4]
  • Certain medications: There are some drugs such as the antiviral medication cidofovir and the antibiotic rifabutin (Mycobutin) which are used to treat HIV infections can be a rare cause of iritis. In many cases when people stop these medications, then they stop the symptoms of iritis. [5]
  • Behcet’s disease: This is an uncommon cause of acute irits in the Western countries. This type of disease is also characterized by genital sores, mouth sores and joint problems. [6]
  • Genetic predispositions: People, who develop some autoimmune diseases which are caused by a gene alteration that is affecting their immune system, also have chances to develop acute iritis. These diseases include psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Reiter’s syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis. [7]
  • Infections: Herpes zoster (shingles) on our face can lead to iritis. Also there are other infectious diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis, histoplasmosis and toxoplasmosis can cause other types of uveitis. [8]
  • Injury to the eye: There are some injuries to our eyes such as a burn from chemical fire, a penetrating injury or a blunt force trauma that can lead to acute iritis.

Iritis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Iritis risk factors

You have a risk of developing irits if you:

  • Smoke tobacco: There are some studies in which is shown that smoking tobacco can increase your risk of iritis. [9]
  • Have a weakened immune system or an autoimmune disorder: These conditions include reactive arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. [10]
  • Develop a sexually transmitted infection: There are certain infections such as HIV/AIDS or syphilis which are linked to increased risk of getting iritis. [11]
  • Have a specific genetic alteration: People who have a specific change in a gene which is essential for the healthy immune system function are having increased chances of developing iritis. This change is labeled HLA – B27. [7]

Complications: If you do not treat this condition properly, then it could lead to:

  • Glaucoma: When there is a recurrent iritis, this can develop in glaucoma which is a serious eye condition that is characterized by increased pressure inside the eyes and possible vision loss. [1]
  • An irregular pupil: Scar tissue can cause the iris to stick the cornea or underlying lens which is making the pupil irregular in shape and the iris sluggish in its reaction to light.
  • Cataracts: If you have a long period of inflammation, then the development of cataracts is possible. [12]


[1] Kabasele PM, Taylor SR, Lightman SL. Causes of visualloss In uveitis. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 2011;52(14).

[2] Doran M. Photophobia: Looking for causes and solutions. EyeNet Magazine. 2020. Retrieved from

[3] Pasadhika S, Rosenbaum JT. Ocular sarcoidosis. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2015;36(4):669–83.

[4] Heiligenhaus A, Minden K, Foll D, Pleyer U. Uveitis in juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. 2015;112(6):92–100.

[5] London NJS, Garg S, Moorthy RS, Cunningham ET. Drug-induced uveitis. Journal of Ophthalmic Inflammation and Infection. 2013;3(1).

[6] Tugal-Tutkun I. Behçet’s uveitis. Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology. 2009;16(4):219–24.

[7] Mattapallil MJ, Sahin A, Silver PB, et al. Common genetic determinants of uveitis shared with other autoimmune disorders. Journal of Immunology. 2008;180(10):6751–9.

[8] Lin P. Infectious uveitis. Current Ophthalmology Reports. 2015; 3(3):170–83.

[9] American Academy of Ophthalmology. Another serious eye disease, uveitis, linked to smoking. Science Daily. 2010.

[10] Lee RW, Nicholson LB, Sen HN, et al. Autoimmune and autoinflammatory mechanisms in uveitis. Seminars in Immunopathology. 2014;36(5):581–94.

[11] Cunningham ET. Uveitis in HIV positive patients. British Journal of Ophthalmology. 2000;84:233-6.

[12] Neatrour K, McAlpine A, Owens TB, et al. Evaluation of the etiology of persistent iritis after cataract surgery. Journal of Ophthalmic Inflammation and Infection. 2019.


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