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Episcleritis

 

Episcleritis is irritation and inflammation of the episclera, a thin layer of tissue covering the white part (sclera) of the eye. It is not an infection.

Causes

Episcleritis is a common condition. In most cases the problem is mild and vision is normal.

The cause is often unknown. But, it may occur with certain diseases, such as:

  • Herpes zoster
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Syphilis
  • Tuberculosis

Symptoms

 

Symptoms include:

  • A pink or purple color to the normally white part of the eye
  • Eye pain
  • Eye tenderness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tearing of the eye

 

Exams and Tests

 

Your health care provider will do an eye exam to diagnose the disorder. Most of the time, no special tests are needed.

 

Treatment

 

The condition most often goes away on its own in 1 to 2 weeks. Using corticosteroid eye drops may help ease the symptoms faster.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Episcleritis most often improves without treatment. However, treatment may make symptoms go away sooner.

 

Possible Complications

 

In some cases, the condition may return. Rarely, irritation and inflammation of the white part of the eye may develop. This is called scleritis.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of episcleritis that last for more than 2 weeks. Get checked again if your pain gets worse or you have problems with your vision.

 

 

References

Goldstein DA, Patel SS, Tessler HH. Episcleritis and scleritis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier; 2014:chap 4.11.

Watson P. Diseases of the sclera and episclera. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol 4;chap 23.

Yanoff M, Cameron JD. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 423.

 
  • External and internal eye anatomy

    External and internal eye anatomy - illustration

    The cornea allows light to enter the eye. As light passes through the eye the iris changes shape by expanding and letting more light through or constricting and letting less light through to change pupil size. The lens then changes shape to allow the accurate focusing of light on the retina. Light excites photoreceptors that eventually, through a chemical process, transmit nerve signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain processes these nerve impulses into sight.

    External and internal eye anatomy

    illustration

    • External and internal eye anatomy

      External and internal eye anatomy - illustration

      The cornea allows light to enter the eye. As light passes through the eye the iris changes shape by expanding and letting more light through or constricting and letting less light through to change pupil size. The lens then changes shape to allow the accurate focusing of light on the retina. Light excites photoreceptors that eventually, through a chemical process, transmit nerve signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain processes these nerve impulses into sight.

      External and internal eye anatomy

      illustration


     

    Review Date: 8/20/2016

    Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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