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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:

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

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

Cioffi GA, Liebmann JM. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 395.

Denniston AK, Rhodes B, Gayed M, Carruthers D, Gordon C, Murray PI. Rheumatic disease. In: Schachat AP, Sadda SVR, Hinton DR, Wilkinson CP, Wiedemann P, eds. Ryan's Retina. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 83.

Patel SS, Goldstein DA. Episcleritis and scleritis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.11.

Schonberg S, Stokkermans TJ. Episcleritis. 2021 Feb 13. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. PMID: 30521217 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30521217/.

  • 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: 8/18/2020

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

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