Eye muscle inflammation

What is eye muscle inflammation?

Every eye in the human body has several muscles that are needed to move the eyeball. For example, there are four eye muscles in total that can move the eye up, down, laterally (sideways) and medially (towards the nose). There are also two other muscles that cause a combined movement.

Other muscles of the eye are located in the eyelids, for example. Different muscles and fibres are also involved in changes in the pupil width and curvature of the lens. If one or more of these eye muscles are inflamed, this is called eye muscle inflammation. The inflammation is characterised by swelling, overheating, pain and possibly a functional impairment.


The causes of eye muscle inflammation can be many and varied. For example, an inflammation of the eye muscles by pathogens is possible. These pathogens can spread further from the eye and thus also affect the eye muscles.

Typically, eye infections involve viruses or bacteria as pathogens, whereby bacteria migrate more frequently and occasionally also attack the eye muscles. Rarely, severe injuries to the eyeball occur with an infection that can also affect the eye muscles. However, inflammation of the eye muscles is often caused by inflammation of the brain or meninges.

Bacteria and viruses can settle in the meninges and in the cerebrospinal fluid (liquor) and migrate from there towards the eye. There they can attack the eye muscles and cause inflammation of the eye muscles. Common pathogens for this are for example Borrelia bacteria.

But other bacteria that like to cause meningitis, such as pneumococcus or meningococcus, can also be the trigger. Viral diseases that migrate from the brain to the eye muscles are for example the TBE viruses or herpes viruses, which can also settle in the eye. An inflammation of the eye muscles can also be caused by autoimmune diseases.

This leads to a reaction of the immune system against the own body. Thus, immune cells attack the body’s own cells and trigger immune reactions and inflammation at the affected site. Lyme disease is a disease caused by bacteria (borrelia).

Typically, these pathogens are transmitted via ticks. Initially the Borrelia infection spreads only on the skin and in about half of the cases leads to erythema migrans (the so-called wandering redness). Occasionally the Borrelia bacteria also spread further and reach the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

There they cause an inflammation of the meninges and occasionally of the brain. From there, the pathogens can continue to migrate and also settle in the eye muscles. This leads to the typical inflammatory symptoms of the eye: swelling, pain (especially when the eye is moving), overheating and functional impairment.