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What Is Corneal Ulcer and Why It Requires Prompt Treatment?

Feb 01, 2023

Eye treatment

corneal-ulcer corneal-ulcer

A corneal ulcer, also known as keratitis, is when an open sore forms on the outer layer of the cornea (a transparent layer of tissue at the front of the eye). The cornea protects the eye structures and allows light to enter the eyes with minimum optical degradation and scattering. If the cornea is infected or injured, the resulting redness or scars will impact your vision by distorting or blocking the light. Approximately, 30,000 to 75,000 people in the US experience corneal ulcers every year and over 12% of corneal transplants are performed to correct them.

Getting medical attention as soon as you develop corneal ulcers can help minimize the risk of complications, including vision loss, glaucoma, cataracts, etc.

What Causes Corneal Ulcers?

Infections are the major cause of corneal ulcers, including:

  • Bacterial Infections

Bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, pseudomonas aeruginosa, and coagulase-negative staphylococcus can cause a corneal ulcer. Bacterial corneal ulcers are common in people who wear improperly cleaned contact lenses or wear them while sleeping.

  • Viral Infections

Viruses that can cause corneal ulcers include shingles (herpes zoster) and cold sores (herpes simplex).

  • Fungal Infections

Fusarium, scedosporium apiospermum, phaeohyphomycosis, aspergillus, and candida species can cause fungal corneal ulcers. An injury to the cornea involving a plant or vegetable material can usually trigger these infections. 

  • Parasitic Infections

Acanthamoeba is an amoeba found in the air, soil, and freshwater. When it enters your eye, it causes Acanthamoeba keratitis. This parasitic corneal ulcer is common in people who wear contact lenses cleaned with tap water instead of a disinfectant.

Also, a corneal ulcer can be caused by:

  • Corneal abrasions or burns
  • Dry eyes
  • Autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, relapsing polychondritis, microscopic polyangiitis, etc.)
  • Disorders that lead to improper closure of eyelids, causing dry eyes (Grave’s disease, Bell’s palsy, and thyroid disorders) 
  • Lack of vitamin A
  • Wearing expired soft contact lenses or disposable contact lenses for long periods

Risk Factors of Corneal Ulcer

Factors that may increase your risk of developing corneal ulcer are:

  • Eyelids that are inflamed (blepharitis) or turn inward
  • Usage of steroid eye drops
  • Eyelashes growing inward
  • Chemical burns to the eye

What Are the Symptoms of Corneal Ulcer?

A corneal ulcer can cause:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Blurred vision
  • Pus-like discharge
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Eye inflammation
  • Soreness
  • White or gray spot on your cornea
  • Light sensitivity
  • A feeling of something in your eyes 

Some initial symptoms to look out for include:

  • Itchy or watery eye
  • Red or pink eye
  • Stinging or burning sensation in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pus-like discharge  

Diagnosis of Corneal Ulcers

Your ophthalmologist will examine your eye to check for white or gray spots, swelling, redness, etc. The following procedures will be recommended if they suspect you have a corneal ulcer:

Fluorescein Eye Stain: This test involves applying an orange dye to your eye with a thin blotting paper. The ophthalmologist will shine a special violet light onto your eye to look for any corneal damage (which, if there is any, will be highlighted by the dye in green color). 

Biopsy: If you have corneal damage, your doctor will take a sample of infected or scar tissue to determine its cause, whether fungi, bacteria, or virus.

Corneal Ulcer Treatment Options

Depending on the causes and severity of your corneal ulcer, your ophthalmologist may recommend any of the following treatment options:

Prescription Medications

  • Antibacterial/antifungal/antiviral eye drops (to treat infections)
  • Corticosteroid eye drops (to minimize swelling and inflammation)
  • Oral painkillers (to treat pain and discomfort)

When you are in treatment, you should avoid:

  • Touching or rubbing your eye unnecessarily
  • Wearing contact lenses and makeup
  • Taking other medications

Corneal Transplants

A corneal transplant is required if your cornea is severely damaged by keratitis. It involves surgically placing the new corneal tissue (from the donor) in place of the existing damaged one.

How to Prevent Corneal Ulcers

You can minimize your risk of corneal ulcers by:

  • Not wearing contact lenses while sleeping and soak them in a disinfecting solution.
  • Washing your hands before touching your eyes.
  • Thoroughly rinsing your eyes with water to wash away foreign objects.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting your lenses before and after wearing them.
  • Wearing protective eyewear before participating in activities that have a high risk of injury.
  • Removing your contact lenses when your eyes are irritated.
  • Not showering or swimming while wearing contact lenses.

Contact Remagin for Corneal Ulcer Treatment near You

No matter whether your corneal ulcer is caused by an infection, injury, or underlying medical conditions, we cure it with our best-in-class treatment, coupled with personalized care and attention. We have experienced ophthalmologists and state-of-the-art facilities to accurately diagnose and treat keratitis with desired results. Contact us today at Remagin to save your vision.

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