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External and internal eye anatomy
External and internal eye anatomy


Episcleritis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the episclera, a thin layer of tissue covering the sclera of the eye.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The sclera is made up of of tissue fibers that form the strong white wall of the eye. It is covered by the episclera, a thin layer of tissue that contains many blood vessels that feed the sclera.

Episcleritis is inflammation of the episclera that occurs without an infection. It is a common condition that is usually mild and rarely progresses to scleritis .

The cause is usually unknown, but it may occur with certain diseases, such as:


Signs and tests:

An eye examination can usually diagnose the disorder. No special tests are usually necessary.


The condition usually disappears without treatment in 1 - 2 weeks. Treatment with corticosteroid eye drops may relieve the symptoms faster.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

Episcleritis usually improves without treatment. Treatment may shorten its duration.

  • Rarely, scleritis may develop
  • The condition may return

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of episcleritis that last for more than 2 weeks. Get checked again if your pain worsens or you lose vision.



Goldstein DA, Tessler HH. Episcleritis, Scleritis, and Other Scleral Disorders. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, Augsburger JJ, Azar DT. Yanoff: Ophthalmology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby; 2004:chap 64.

O'Day DM, Horn JD. The Eye and Rheumatic Disease. In: Harris ED, Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS. Harris: Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005:chap 44.

Review Date: 7/15/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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