Episcleritis is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Episcleritis is irritation and inflammation of the episclera, a thin layer of tissue covering the sclera. It is not an infection.
  • Episcleritis is the localized inflammation of the vascular connective tissue superficial to the sclera.
  • Usually a self-limited condition, typically resolving within 3 weeks
  • Most cases resolve without treatment.
  • Topical lubricants and/or topical corticosteroid treatment may relieve symptoms while awaiting spontaneous resolution.


  • Edema and injection confined to the episcleral tissue
  • Two types
    • Simple (diffuse scleral involvement—more common)
    • Nodular (focal area[s] of involvement—less common)


Slight female predominance (~60–65%)

  • May occur at any age
  • Peak incidence in 40s to 50s
  • Community incidence not well-known (~20 to 50 cases per 100,000 person-years)

Not historically well-known; a recent community study found a prevalence of 53 cases per 100,000 persons.

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Etiology: usually idiopathic, but other causes may be found (either nonimmune or immune)
  • Pathophysiology:
    • Nonimmune (e.g., dry eye syndrome, with histology showing widespread vasodilation, edema, lymphocytic infiltration)
    • Immune (systemic vasculitis or rheumatologic disease)

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Usually not associated with another condition
  • Less commonly associated conditions include the following:
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Vasculitis
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Ankylosing spondylitis
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus
    • Gout
    • Herpes zoster
    • Hypersensitivity disorders
      • Rosacea
      • Contact dermatitis
      • Penicillin sensitivity
      • Erythema multiforme

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