Iritis can occur at any age. It is rare in childhood. Children with rheumatoid arthritis may have iritis without having its usual symptoms. Therefore their eyes are checked regularly.
Iritis usually causes pain and redness of the eye, the eye may be very light sensitive, too. As one looks at near with the inflamed eye, it may hurt badly. When we look at near distance the small muscles of the iris contract. Contraction of the inflammed muscle causes the pain.
In young children iritis is often quite symptom free when it occurs with inflammation of a joint, a rheumatoid reaction. Also the swelling of the joint may have developed unnoticed, so the child may come to an ophthalmologist because of decrease of vision, caused by cataractous changes in the lens. In such a case inflammation must have been present for weeks or months.
Iritis should be treated as soon as possible. It is best to go to the emergency clinic or to the eye doctor's office if you can go there without delay. It is important not to make an appointment which usually means several weeks of waiting.
The treatment of iritis is based on rest and steroids, cortison-like medications. Rest is instituted by using dilatation of the pupil, then the small muscles cannot contract.
The eye may become quite comfortable in a few days but the treatment is continued for weeks and often months until the interior of the eye looks normal. If the treatment is discontinued too early, the symptoms may reappear. Iritis tends to be reactivated by viral infections now and then. If one has had the symptoms once, they are easily recognized the next time. The treatment is always the same.