Scleritis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the white area of the eyeball known as the sclera. This causes a great deal of pain that radiates to the head, face and jaw. People affected by this condition have reddish to purplish sclera. They also complain about having blurry vision, unusual tearing of the eyes and light sensitivity. This problem can be an early indication of a connective tissue disease, systemic disease or an autoimmune disorder.

People affected by scleritis should seek immediate medical advice because it could lead to vision loss. Its treatment is target towards relieving the inflammation and pain with the use of NSAIDs. The doctor will also prescribe additional medications to address the underlying medical condition causing the inflammation of the sclera.

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Cause of Scleritis

Scleritis develops when the tough and fibrous area of the eye or sclera is inflamed. The sclera is largely composed of connective tissues. It is the whitish part of the eye that spans from the border of the cornea to the optic nerve behind the eyeball. Not only does it provide the whitish coloring of the eye, it also keeps its round shape. More importantly, the sclera protects the inner structures of the eyes.

The sclera may become inflamed due to infections caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. The condition could also occur after being exposed to harsh chemicals, trauma or after surgery that involves the eyes. But statistics showed that majority of the people affected by scleritis suffer from some kind of autoimmune disease, connective tissue disorder or systemic disease. Among these include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Scleroderma
  • Lupus
  • Polymyositis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Remarkably, a few of those who have inflamed sclera do not suffer from any of the medical conditions associated with scleritis.

Differentiating Scleritis from other eye problems

Scleritis should not be confused with episcleritis – a condition in which the superficial tissue between the conjunctiva and sclera is inflamed. In scleritis, the sclera itself is affected, whether it is on the front part or back portion of the eyeball. A swollen sclera causes:

  • Redness and tearing

There is some redness to the nearby blood vessels in the sclera that may appear bluish. There are no discharges but there is unusual tearing of the affected eye.

  • Severe pain

The condition causes severe pain that could be described as dull or emanating and capable of awakening the sufferer from sleep. There is some tenderness to the eye, especially when touched.

  • Blurry vision

Visual acuity is significantly reduced this resulting in blurry vision. The nearby structures like the cornea or retina could be already affected as well. The affected eye or eyes become very sensitive to light.

The condition may affect one or both eyes and the front or back of the eyeball. Scleritis comes in two forms:

  • Anterior scleritis

This form accounts for most cases of inflamed sclera wherein the front part of the tough fibrous membrane is affected. This is usually characterized by partial or widespread redness on the anterior or front part of the sclera. In some cases, bumps or nodules are present on the eye surface. A severely inflamed sclera causes intense pain and can be potentially damaging the cornea.

  • Posterior scleritis

This form of scleritis, in which the back part of the sclera is inflamed, rarely occurs. This could develop when the inflammation in the front part of the sclera reaches the back portion.

An inflamed sclera is dangerous and results in various complications like retinal detachment, angle-closure glaucoma, puncturing of the eyeball or partial or total vision loss.

Incidence of Scleritis

Young and adults alike are at risk of developing the condition, but it is particularly common among people in their 30s and 60s. Studies also showed that it affects more women than men. Those who are suffering from some form of autoimmune, connective tissue or systemic disorder have increased risk of developing the condition. An inflamed sclera requires immediate consultation with the doctor so that the correct diagnosis can be made.

An eye exam with the use of a special instrument called the slit lamp will reveal abnormalities in the structures of the eyeball. The eye doctor may seek assistance from other healthcare specialists to determine the underlying cause of the problem. A series of tests is usually done to confirm the condition.  These include physical exam, blood tests, X-ray exam and MRI.

Treatment usually works for scleritis. Even so, it could recur over time. The chances of recovery highly depend on the underlying medical condition.

Treatment for Scleritis

People with inflamed sclera are treated differently depending on the underlying cause. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid pills are effective in relieving pain and inflammation. Antibiotics and eye solutions can be helpful as well. Those who develop severe form of scleritis will require surgery to prevent possible vision loss. The underlying medical condition is also treated which helps relieve the associated symptoms as well. There is no way to prevent scleritis but a timely diagnosis and treatment helps in preventing irrevocable damage from happening.

Scleritis Pictures



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