When I first read about this condition, I was taken by surprise. Arthritis is commonly associated with joints and cartilage. But “iritis” is a very different form of eye irritation and should not be confused with conjunctivitis (pink eye). Although it may sound like a case of arthritis in the eye, the cause of iritis is not always possible to uncover. When it comes to this serious condition, the best medicine is prevention and early diagnosis. Today I’m going to give you some insight about this unusual disease. Let first tell you what it is, how it’s treated, and then some healthy answers on how to prevent this inflammation of the eye.
What is Iritis?
Iritis is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, or the uvea. The muscles located there adjust the size of the iris, expanding and contracting based on light and other conditions. When these muscles become inflamed, the iris may be damaged. This can result in small or irregularly shaped pupils, glaucoma or other serious problems.
In many cases iritis is not connected to a specific cause. In some people, however, genetics or an existing chronic condition may trigger iritis. People suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis may be at risk. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the body and affects movement. It is possible that the condition may spread to the eye. Iritis is even more common in children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Injury to the eye is another possible cause.
If you suspect you have contracted iritis, see a doctor as soon as possible. Intervention is essential for preventing serious complications, including blindness. People with iritis do not generally experience increased tears or eye discharge, but there are several symptoms to watch out for. You may have redness, especially a pink cast in the white of the eye. You may be sensitive to light and feel discomfort in the eye. Blurred vision is another common sign, as well as floating spots in your vision. If you have no reason to suspect a different problem, see your doctor at the first sign of symptoms.
Treating and Preventing Iritis
As I discussed above, iritis is a serious condition, which must be treated by a doctor right away. In most cases, medication is necessary to protect your vision and relieve pain and discomfort. Steroid eye drops may be used to fight inflammation. Dilating eye drops can lessen pain and prevent damage to the iris. If these treatments do not reduce inflammation, oral steroids may be prescribed.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or have family members who suffer from this condition, some natural prevention tactics may reduce your risk of iritis. The food you eat has a great effect on inflammation in the body. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation. Find them in fish like salmon and tuna, walnuts and flax seeds, as well as nutritional supplements. For cooking and salad dressing, choose olive or canola oil. Whole grains and fresh produce also contribute to health.
Foods you should avoid are white carbohydrates, processed snack foods, anything high in sugar and processed meats, such as deli turkey or sausage. To further tackle inflammation, you may want to consider visiting a naturopathic doctor. He or she can determine the right nutrients and herbs to treat your individual needs.
Natural vitamin supplements a smart way to keep your eyes healthy and prevent iritis. Look for brands formulated for optimal eye health. Ingredients with vision benefits include vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium. Certain natural extracts and antioxidants can boost the benefits of these vitamins. Some examples are lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, alpha lipoic acid, bilberry, and ginko biloba.
If you think you may be at risk for iritis, consider the natural measures I described to prevent the onset of this condition. Anyone who is concerned about his vision and overall health can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet and vitamin supplements. Remember to see you doctor if symptoms arise to keep your vision will stay strong and healthy for a lifetime.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.