Inflammation - sclera

Alternative names

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

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

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


  • Eye pain that is severe  
  • Red patches on the normally white part of the eye  
  • Blurred vision  
  • Sensitivity to light - very painful  
  • Tearing of the eye

Signs and tests

  • Eye examination  
  • Physical examination and blood tests to search for or to rule out underlying causes


Corticosteroid eye drops are effective in reducing the inflammation. Sometimes oral corticosteroids are prescribed.

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

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.


  • Recurrence  
  • Side effects of prolonged corticosteroid therapy

If untreated, perforation of the eyeball may occur.

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


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.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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