Optometrists categorise eye inflammation through redness, swelling, irritation or pain. However, the inflammation type differs depending on which part of the eye is inflamed. This is why regular eye tests are important, as your optometrist will be able to identify which part of the eye needs treatment. 

A breakdown of the eye

The human eye is a complex structure with many parts. The main areas that are more likely to suffer from inflammation are:

Optic nerve: A bundle of more than one million nerve fibres that carry images from the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of your eye) to the brain.

Cornea: This is a transparent 'window' at the front of the eye. It's responsible for transmitting and focusing light into the eye, the cornea is what helps make your vision sharp and clear.

Sclera: The opaque white part of the eye is called the sclera, which protects and supports the eye.

Uvea: The uvea is the middle layer of tissues in the eye, under the sclera. It consists of three parts: the iris (the coloured part, which controls the diameter of the pupil), the ciliary body (which secretes a nourishing liquid called the aqueous humour), and the choroid (which is a layer of blood vessels between the sclera and retina).

All these parts of the eye play an important role in its functionality, and they can all become inflamed.

What are the different types of eye inflammation?

Eye inflammation is a general term used to describe the symptoms of a variety of conditions, infections or injuries that affect different parts of the eye.  

If your eyes feel inflamed in any way, or just generally 'not right', book an eye test with one of our optometrists so they can take a closer look.

Optic neuritis — optic nerve inflammation

Symptoms of optic neuritis typically include pain and temporary loss of vision in one eye. Some people also see flashing lights or find that colours appear less vivid. It can develop quickly, so should you experience any sudden changes to your eyes it's important to book an appointment with an optometrist as soon as possible. 

Keratitis — corneal inflammation

Wearing your contact lenses too long or not following proper hygiene practices can lead to keratitis. It can also happen as a result of minor injury to the cornea. Keratitis can make your eyes red and watery, as well as cause some pain, light sensitivity, a gritty sensation in your eye or blurred vision.  If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your optician right away as, if left untreated, complications can arise. Your optometrist will usually use a slit lamp to check your eye for symptoms of this inflammation.

Scleritis — scleral inflammation 

Scleritis is a relatively serious eye condition which can cause long-term problems to vision if left untreated. 

Symptoms include pain, redness, excessive tearing, and light sensitivity. Scleritis has been associated with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

This condition can be treated with steroid medications, however, it’s important to seek medical attention quickly. Scleritis can also be detected using a slit lamp. 

Uveitis — uvea inflammation

Inflammation of the uvea usually comes on suddenly and develops quickly. It can be the result of an eye injury or it may occur in association with other inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. Symptoms of uveitis include redness, pain, and blurred vision in one or both eyes. Some people may also see floaters or experience decreased vision.2 

If you have any of the warning signs and symptoms of uveitis, see your optometrist as soon as possible. All the eye tests performed to check for signs of different eye inflammations are quick and are pain free.

All the eye tests performed to check for signs of different eye inflammations are quick and are pain free

If you feel a change in your vision or eye health, it’s always a good idea to get an expert opinion by having a chat with an optometrist or optician who can advise you on your next steps. You can learn even more about optical coherence tomography and how it works by visiting our informational resource here


1. College of Optometrists (no date). Scleritis. [Online]. Available at: https://www.college-optometrists.org/guidance/clinical-management-guidelines/scleritis.html [Accessed 2 April 2020].

2. Baltmr A, Lightman S, Tomkins-Netzer O. Examining the choroid in ocular inflammation: a focus on enhanced depth imaging. J Ophthalmol. 2014;2014:459136. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082870/ [Accessed 16 November