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What is scleritis?

Scleritis is painful inflammation of the sclera. The sclera is the white of the eye.

How does it occur?

The cause of scleritis is not always known. It is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 60. People who have rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or other autoimmune disorders are more likely to have scleritis. It is more common in women than in men. Scleritis may also be caused by infection or injury to the eye.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • pain in the eye (a deep ache) that may disturb sleep
  • increased watering of the eye
  • sensitivity to bright light
  • redness over part or all of the eye

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, examine your eyes, and do tests. Tests you may have are:

  • an exam using a special microscope (a slit lamp) to look closely at the front of your eye
  • a visual field test
  • an ultrasound test
  • a CT scan
  • a blood test to check for other diseases related to scleritis

How is it treated?

Scleritis is usually treated with corticosteroid eye drops. Your provider may also prescribe corticosteroids taken by mouth, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID). NSAIDs may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.

If scleritis is caused by an infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics.

How long will the effects last?

Scleritis should improve within a few days after you start treatment. If scleritis is not treated promptly, it may cause a hole in the eye, which can cause loss of vision.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your provider if:

  • You have any severe eye pain.
  • Your symptoms do not improve after you have used your medicine for 3 days.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-03
Last reviewed: 2010-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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