Scleritis Workup

Updated: Nov 15, 2022
  • Author: Manolette R Roque, MD, MBA, FPAO; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Laboratory Studies

Based on the history, review of systems, and physical examination, select appropriate diagnostic tests to confirm or reject the following suspected associated diseases:

  • Rheumatoid factor - Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Antinuclear antibodies - Systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, progressive systemic sclerosis, or mixed connective tissue
  • Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) - Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, polyarteritis nodosa, or microscopic polyangiitis
  • Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing - Ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Eosinophil count/immunoglobulin E (IgE) - Allergic angiitis of Churg-Strauss syndrome or atopy
  • Uric acid - Gout
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) - Giant cell arteritis
  • Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) - Polyarteritis nodosa
  • Serologies - Infectious diseases, including syphilis and Lyme disease
  • Purified-protein derivative (PPD) skin test or Quantiferon gold assay - Tuberculosis
  • Anergy skin test - Sarcoidosis
  • Prick test – Atopy

Imaging Studies

Imaging studies include the following:

  • Chest radiography or CT scanning - Tuberculosis, Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, allergic angiitis of Churg-Strauss syndrome, sarcoidosis, or atopy
  • Sinus films - Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  • Sacroiliac radiography - Ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Limb joint radiography - Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease, or gout
  • Ultrasonography (A-scan and B-scan) - Posterior scleritis; most helpful test to aid in diagnosing posterior scleritis, which is characterized by flattening of the posterior aspect of the globe, thickening of the posterior sclera, and retrobulbar edema [9]
  • Orbital CT scanning - Posterior scleritis; a useful diagnostic tool to aid in detecting the following, which are essential to differentiate posterior scleritis from orbital inflammatory diseases and orbital neoplasm: extraocular muscle or lacrimal gland enlargement, sinus tissue involvement, and posterior scleral thickening [10]
  • Orbital MRI - Posterior scleritis

MRI is used to differentiate localized inflammatory pseudotumors from posterior scleritis in patients with proptosis or choroidal tumors from posterior scleritis in patients with a subretinal mass.

Some orbital tumors, best visualized with MRI, can cause choroidal folds and retinal striae, which may also be signs of posterior scleritis.

Related clinical guideline summary from the American College of Radiology: ACR Appropriateness Criteria: Orbits, vision, and visual loss. [11]


Other Tests

Smears, cultures, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from conjunctival, corneal, episcleral, or scleral scraping - Infectious scleritis

  • Scleral or corneoscleral biopsy is recommended if smears and culture results are negative at 48 hours, infectious scleritis remains the primary clinical suspicion, and the patient worsens despite targeted empirical antimicrobial therapy. One third of tissue from a biopsy is sent to the microbiology department and homogenized for smears, cultures, and PCR. The middle third of the tissue is transported to the pathology department for histopathology with special stains (eg, periodic acid-Schiff [PAS], Gomori methenamine-silver [GMS], acid-fast, calcofluor white). The last third of the tissue is sent to the immunology department for immunofluorescence studies with monoclonal antibodies (e.g., anti-herpes simplex virus type 1, anti–varicella-zoster virus antibodies).

  • PCR of body fluids, orbital abscess drainage, aqueous humor, and vitreous - Infectious scleritis



Low-dose anterior segment fluorescein angiography (FA) combined with anterior segment indocyanine green (ICG) angiography is recommended. [12] ICG distinguishes completely occluded vessels from the temporary obstruction caused by high endothelial venules or vascular spasms seen as nonperfusion with FA. FA identifies new corneal vessels and leakage, whereas ICG does not. ICG locates the site of maximum inflammation and is more valuable in assessing the effects of treatment and when to withdraw that treatment. These anterior-segment imaging techniques require specific expertise and training and are unavailable in most facilities or academic departments.

Diffuse scleritis

  • FA - Rapid filling, short transit time, extensive leakage, normal vascular pattern, and deep sclera leakage in early disease
  • ICG - Rapid filling, short transit time, no leakage except for local vascular damage, and occasionally late deep leakage

Nodular scleritis

  • FA - Rapid transit time, abnormal leakage pattern, and staining nodules
  • ICG - Rapid filling, short transit time, and stained nodules

Necrotizing scleritis

  • FA - Hypoperfusion and venular occlusion, increased transit time, new vessel formation, and deep staining
  • ICG - Hypoperfusion and venular occlusion, increased transit time, and late leakage from new or damaged vessels

Scleromalacia perforans

  • FA - Virtually no perfusion
  • ICG - Leakage in the area of necrotic tissue

Posterior scleritis

  • FA - Retinal pigment epithelial detachments, serous retinal detachment, cystoid edema, choroidal folds, and hyperfluorescent and hypofluorescent areas
  • ICG - Diffuse zonal choroidal hyperfluorescence intermediate or late phase, pinpoint leakage, delayed choroidal perfusion, and hyperfluorescence in areas of maximal activity

Histologic Findings

Diffuse scleritis or nodular scleritis

A nongranulomatous inflammatory reaction is characterized by the infiltration of mononuclear cells, such as macrophages, lymphocytes, and plasma cells. In the most severe cases, mononuclear cells may organize into granulomatous lesions. Mast cells, neutrophils, and eosinophils may also be present.

Necrotizing scleritis

A granulomatous inflammatory reaction is characterized by a central area of fibrinoid necrosis surrounded by epithelioid cells, multinucleated giant cells, lymphocytes, and plasma cells. Neutrophils, mast cells, and eosinophils are dispersed throughout the inflamed tissue and vessels. Inflammatory microangiopathy, which is characterized by neutrophilic infiltration in and around the episclera and sclera that perforates the vessel walls with or without fibrinoid necrosis, is frequently seen.