Scleritis

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Scleritis Symptoms

Eye Pain

The eye is the organ of sight. Eye pain can be cause by conditions involving the eyeball (orbit) or be caused by conditions of structures around the eye.

The eye has a number of components. These components include but are not limited to the cornea, iris, pupil, lens, retina, macula, optic nerve, choroid and vitreous.

Scleritis facts

  • Scleritis is an inflammation of the white of the eye.
  • It is serious eye disease which is often associated with underlying autoimmune disorders.
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential in preventing permanent vision loss.

What is scleritis?

Scleritis is an inflammation of the sclera, the white portion of the eye.

What is the sclera?

The sclera is the tough, white fibrous outer wall layer of the eye. It is a type of connective tissue. The sclera provides both the white color of the eye and allows the eye to maintain its shape. It extends from the edge of the cornea (the clear, dome-shaped window in the front of the eye) all the way to the optic nerve in the back of the eye.

What causes scleritis?

Scleritis is an uncommon disease and is differentiated from episcleritis, which is a more common ocular condition. In episcleritis, only the superficial tissue between the white of the eye (sclera) and the blood vessel-filled covering (conjunctiva) is inflamed.

Approximately one-half of cases of scleritis are associated with underlying diseases that affect the body internally (systemic diseases). Connective tissue disorders, autoimmune diseases, and generalized vasculitic abnormalities may all first present as scleritis or manifest themselves as scleritis during the course of the underlying disease.

Scleritis may be seen in association with systemic lupus erythematosus, arthritis, other types of inflammatory arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, gouty arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, relapsing polychondritis), polyarteritis nodosa, mixed connective tissue disease, progressive systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), Wegener's granulomatosis, polymyositis, Sjogren's syndrome, giant cell arteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergic angiitis.

Scleritis may be the initial manifestation of these underlying illnesses. Some of these conditions are potentially lethal.

Scleritis can also be the result of an infectious process caused by bacteria including pseudomonas, fungi, viruses, or parasites. Trauma, chemical exposure, or postsurgical inflammation can also cause scleritis.

No cause is found in some cases of scleritis.

Scleritis may affect either one or both eyes. In patients with disease in both eyes, an underlying systemic cause is almost always found.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/23/2016

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