Overview of episcleritis
Episcleritis an inflammation of the episclera, a thin layer of transparent tissue on top of the white part of the eye or sclera. This is the layer between the thin “skin” of the eye and the resistant wall of the eyeball. When the tiny blood vessels in the episclera become irritated or inflamed, they cause the eye to appear red or bloodshot. It usually occurs in only one eye, but it can affect both. Although the redness may look like pink eye, there is no sticky discharge.
There are two types of episcleritis, and they look slightly different from each other:
- Simple. Redness in a section and sometimes throughout the eye with minimal discomfort.
- Nodular. Slightly raised bumps surrounded by dilated blood vessels, usually in one area of the eye, may cause discomfort.
While simple and nodular episcleritis look slightly different, they share many of the same symptoms, including:
- Sensitivity to bright light
- A feeling of warmth, itching, or grit in the eye
These symptoms generally do not affect your vision. They can also go away on their own after a few weeks and return several months later.
What causes episcleritis?
The exact cause of episcleritis is unknown. However, it tends to occur more often in people with inflammatory diseases, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
How is it diagnosed?
To diagnose episcleritis, your eye doctor will give you a thorough eye exam. They’ll likely start by looking at the colour of your eyes. If the discolouration is more of a bluish-purple, rather than red, they might diagnose you with scleritis instead.
You’ll also be given a slip lamp exam. This involves using a device called a slit lamp, which gives your doctor a 3D-view of the front of your eyes. Your doctor might apply eye drops before a slit lamp exam to make any abnormalities easier to see.
How is it treated?
It is typically clears up without treatment, but topical or oral anti-inflammatory agents may be set for pain relief or in chronic/recurrent cases.