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 is an inflammation of the white portion of the eye, the sclera.
- Scleritis is serious eye disease that is often associated with underlying autoimmune disorders.
- Prompt diagnosis and treatment of scleritis is essential to prevent 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 eyeball. It is a type of connective tissue. The sclera provides both the white color of the eye and maintains the shape of the eyeball. It extends from the edge of the cornea (the clear, dome-shaped window in the front of the eye) around 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 inflammation of the surface membrane covering the sclera and is a more common eye 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 scleritis cases are associated with underlying diseases that affect the body internally (systemic diseases). Connective tissue disorders, autoimmune diseases, and generalized vasculitic abnormalities may all first appear as scleritis or manifest themselves as scleritis at some other time 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 (granulomatous polyangiitis), polymyositis, Sjögren'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, mycobacterium, 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 4/7/2017