Published by Bupa's Health Information Team, January 2011.
This factsheet is for people who have episcleritis, or who would like information about it.
Episcleritis is inflammation of the episclera. This is the thin layer of tissue that sits between the white of the eye (sclera) and the transparent layer that covers the eye (conjunctiva).
Episcleritis is a relatively common condition that can affect one or both of your eyes. Episcleritis affects women more than men and most commonly occurs between ages 40 and 50.
There are two types of episcleritis.
Symptoms of episcleritis include:
Your vision shouldn’t be affected.
If you have nodular episcleritis, you may have one or more small lumps or raised areas on the white of your eye. You may find that these lumps can move on the surface of your eyeball.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP.
A complication of episcleritis is iritis. This is when the coloured part of your eye (iris) becomes inflamed. About one in 10 people with episcleritis develop mild iritis.
Doctors don’t fully understand why episcleritis develops. However, certain health conditions make episcleritis more likely. These are usually diseases that affect the bones, cartilage, tendons or other connective tissues of the body, such as:
Other, less common, causes of episcleritis include certain types of cancer, skin diseases, immune deficiency disorders and, rarely, insect bites.
Your GP or optometrist (a registered health professional who examines eyes, tests sight and dispenses glasses and contact lenses) will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may also ask you about your medical history.
Your GP may carry out further tests, such as a blood test, to find out if episcleritis is related to an underlying health condition.
If your condition is particularly painful or doesn’t respond to treatment, your GP may refer you to an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specialises in eye health, including eye surgery).
Episcleritis usually clears up on its own within about 10 days and doesn’t normally require any treatment.
Artificial tears (eg hypromellose) can be useful in relieving symptoms. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
If your symptoms are severe or last a long time your doctor may prescribe the following.
Always ask your doctor for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.
Any underlying conditions that have been found as a result of you having episcleritis will also require treatment. You may be referred to another specialist such as a rheumatologist (a doctor who specialises in identifying and treating conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, particularly the joints and surrounding tissues) for treatment.
For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.
For sources and links to further information, see Resources.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the About our Health Information page.
Publication date: January 2011
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