If your eye looks red and irritated, it could be due to a condition called episcleritis. Episcleritis is a cause of eye redness but is not usually serious or harmful. It can go away by itself but there are various treatments available, as well as options
to help alleviate symptoms.
If your eye is also very painful and you can’t see properly, you may have a rare condition called scleritis. This can affect your vision and sometimes even cause permanent eye damage if not treated. Visit your optometrist as soon as possible if your eye feels painful and appears red. We can detect or rule out more serious conditions and help you with any symptoms.
If you have episcleritis your symptoms may include:
- Redness of the eyes (this is often the only symptom)
- Mild soreness or a gritty feeling in the eyes,
- Light sensitivity
There are two main types of episcleritis. The most common is called ‘simple’ episcleritis, which can be broken down into two further subtypes. ’Sectoral’ means the redness appears over part of your eye. ‘Diffuse’ is when you have redness all over your eye.
The second type is called nodular episcleritis. This is when a tiny bump grows on your eye which can be uncomfortable.
Experts aren’t sure about the exact cause of episcleritis. It can appear or flare up if you haven’t been getting enough sleep and rest, have been reading or using screens a lot, or you’re somewhere dusty or dry.
In very rare cases it can be caused by underlying inflammation in your body. If you are experiencing severe, recurring episodes, your doctor may run blood tests to check if this could be the case.
You are more likely to experience episcleritis if:
- You’re a woman. Women are affected slightly more often than men
- You’re an adult. You can get it at any age, but it affects adults more often especially in the 40-50 age group
- You have an infection in your body
- You have cancer. Some cancers can cause episcleritis
- You have an underlying inflammatory disease such as:¹
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
Episcleritis often goes away by itself so you might not need treatment. However, if it persists, there are different treatment options available to treat it.
Episcleritis eye treatments can include eye drops or ointments to help lubricate the eye. A short course of steroid drops might be prescribed if symptoms don’t go away. This is more common for the nodular type.²
If episcleritis does not settle after a week, or if the pain becomes worse and your vision is affected, you should see your doctor or your optometrist in case you have scleritis.
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