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Scleritis is an inflammation of the sclera (the white outer wall of the eye).

Alternative Names

Inflammation - sclera


Inflammation of the sclera is usually associated with infections, chemical injuries, or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Scleritis occurs most often in people between the ages of 30 and 60 and is rare in children.

Signs and tests
  • Eye examination
  • Physical examination and blood tests to look for or rule out underlying causes
Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The condition may recur but usually responds to treatment. Scleritis must be distinguished from other forms of inflammation that are less severe, such as episcleritis.

The underlying disorder associated with scleritis may be serious, and the outcome depends upon the specific disorder.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider or ophthalmologist if you have symptoms of scleritis.

  • Scleritis returns
  • Side effects of long-term corticosteroid therapy
  • Untreated, perforation of the eyeball may occur, leading to vision loss

Corticosteroid eye drops help reduce the inflammation. Sometimes corticosteroids pills are taken by mouth. Newer, nonsteroid anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs may be used in some cases.

If scleritis is caused by an underlying disease, treatment of that disease may be necessary.


There is no preventive treatment for most cases.

Patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis may need careful monitoring by an ophthalmologist with experience treating ocular inflammatory diseases.


Galor A, Thorne JE. Scleritis and peripheral ulcerative keratitis. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2007 Nov;33(4):835-54, vii. Review.

Review Date: 8/22/2008
Reviewed By: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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