Inflammation of the White of the Eye (Scleritis)

What is scleritis?

Scleritis is painful redness and swelling of the sclera, which is the white of your eye. If scleritis is not treated promptly, it may cause a hole in your eye, which can cause loss of vision.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of scleritis is not always known. It may be caused by infection or injury to your eye. You are at higher risk if you:

  • Are between the ages of 30 and 60
  • Have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or other problems with your immune system
  • Are a woman

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Deep aching pain in your eye that may wake you at night
  • Very red eye
  • Painful sensitivity to light

How is it diagnosed?

Your eye care provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and do exams and tests such as:

  • An exam using a microscope with a light attached, called a slit lamp, to look closely at the front and back of your eye
  • A visual field test, which uses spots of light to measure your central vision and how well you see things on all sides
  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of your eye
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of your eye
  • Blood and urine tests to check for other diseases related to scleritis

How is it treated?

Scleritis is treated with anti-inflammatory medicines. Your provider may also prescribe steroid eye drops, steroids taken by mouth, or a 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.

Scleritis should improve within a few days after you start treatment.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent scleritis?

Have regular eye exams, especially if you have a health condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-27
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
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.
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