Diagnosis | Eye muscle inflammation


The diagnosis of an eye muscle inflammation initially consists of a medical history and an examination of the eye. This should primarily test for restrictions in the mobility of the eyeball. Subsequently, the focus of the diagnosis should be on identifying the cause of the eye muscle inflammation.

In this way, infections of the eye can spread to the eye muscles. There is a risk of the inflammation spreading further into the brain, which should be prevented at all costs. If, on the other hand, there is already an inflammation in the brain or on the meninges, this in turn can be the trigger for the inflammation of the eye muscles. In order to diagnose meningitis, a sample of cerebral water must usually be taken from the lower lumbar region.

By which symptoms do I recognize an eye muscle inflammation?

Eye muscle inflammation is mainly characterized by pain when the eyeball moves. The inflammation of the eye muscle causes swelling, overheating and limited functionality of the affected eye muscle. If the muscle is needed to move the eyeball, this can cause pain.

Thus the complaints typically occur whenever the affected person looks in a certain direction. If several eye muscles are affected by the inflammation, movement in different directions can also be painfully restricted. Extensive eye muscle inflammation can also cause swelling and redness of the skin surrounding the eye in the affected area.

If the eye muscle inflammation is so severe that the affected eye can no longer be moved completely in all directions, phenomena such as double vision also occur. These occur because the healthy eye moves normally, but the diseased eye is unable to follow the movement completely, so both eyes look in slightly different directions. These double images can also cause headaches and other complaints such as dizziness and discomfort, up to and including nausea and vomiting.

If other structures are also inflamed, this can also cause additional symptoms. The inflammation of the meninges is particularly feared. This leads to severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and neck pain.

Fever can also occur. If eye muscle inflammation is caused by autoimmune processes, it is usually only part of an autoimmune disease that affects several organs. For example, the eye can also be particularly dry.

Reduced saliva production with dry mouth and mucous membranes can also be a concomitant symptom. Inflammation of other muscles (for example, the trunk, arms and legs) can also occur. Or vasculitis – i.e. an inflammation of the vessels – may also occur.


The therapy of eye muscle inflammation is very much dependent on the underlying cause. The pure inflammation of the eye muscle can often be treated symptomatically. Cooling compresses can be used for this.

Eye drops with anti-inflammatory agents can also relieve the inflammation of the eye muscle if necessary. However, if an infectious cause of the eye muscle inflammation is suspected or confirmed, the pathogen must be eliminated as quickly as possible. The urgency of the therapy is mainly caused by the possibility of an infection of the meninges or the brain itself, which can have serious consequences.

A bacterial infection should therefore be treated with antibiotics (usually systemically by tablets or even via the vein). In the case of viral infections (which occur less frequently), virustatic (antiviral) agents can be used if necessary. If the inflammation of the eye muscle leads to the formation of a pus cavity (abscess), surgical treatment of the eye muscle inflammation may also be necessary.

If, on the other hand, the inflammation of the eye muscles is first triggered by meningitis, meningitis should be treated as a priority. This is also mainly done by antibiotics through the vein, which also treats the inflammation of the eye muscles. If, on the other hand, an autoimmune disease is present, it should be treated.

Typically, this is done with drugs that downregulate the body’s immune system. As a rule, one starts with a cortisone therapy, which can usually be administered by means of tablets (in more severe cases also via the vein). Subsequently, the medication is usually changed to other immunosuppressive agents, as cortisone therapy is not recommended for a long period of time due to some side effects.

Cortisone can be used in the therapy of eye muscle inflammation, especially if the inflammation has an autoimmune component. This is the case with autoimmune diseases that affect the entire body, for example. Cortisone downregulates the immune reaction, the immune cells no longer attack the body’s own cells and the inflammation of the eye muscles can heal.