Corneal ulcer is a vision threatening eye emergency, and you must see an eye doctor immediately, for smaller peripheral corneal ulcers in a non-contact-lens wearer can be referred semi-urgently.
A corneal ulcer is a wound that appears on the surface of your cornea caused primarily by infection, but not necessarily. Your cornea is the front part of the eye. It helps keep the rest of the eye clean and free of germs. An ulcer can also form on your cornea if you have an injury to your cornea. Anyone can develop a corneal ulcer, regardless of age. The severity of corneal ulcers can vary depending on their cause. Use of contact lenses is the leading cause of corneal ulcers in the United States.
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimates that in the United States alone 30,000 to 75,000 cases of corneal ulcers occur each year, and about 12.2% of corneal transplants are performed to treat infectious keratitis.
A corneal ulcer is an eye emergency that should be treated as soon as possible because it can lead to vision loss. Therefore, you should see our optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as you start exhibiting symptoms. Call your eye doctor right away if you:
Corneal ulcers are characterized by the following symptoms:
There are many causes of corneal ulcers, including bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infections.
Acanthamoeba keratitis occurs in people who wear contact lenses. Use of contact lenses is the leading cause of corneal ulcers in the United States. The risk of it occurring is higher among those who make their own cleaning solutions, clean their contact lenses with tap water, or swim with contact lenses, especially in freshwater lakes and rivers.
Fungal keratitis can result from corneal injuries involving fungus-contaminated plant material, for example getting hit in the eye with a tree or plant. Additionally, people with suppressed immune systems and in some cases contact lens wearers who are not careful about proper maintenance may suffer from fungal keratitis.
Herpes simplex keratitis
Another type of corneal ulcer is herpes simplex keratitis, a serious viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). Type I is the type of herpes virus that is known to cause eye infections. This virus is highly contagious and is usually spread through skin contact. This is also very common in the United States.
Who is at risk of a corneal ulcer?
Treatment of corneal ulcer depends on the cause of the infection, which will be determined through a culture test of your cornea.
If the corneal ulcer is not severe and is not a threat to your vision, antibiotic drops such as fluoroquinolones (moxifloxacin, besifloxacin, gatifloxacin) and bacitracin or erythromycin may be prescribed. It has now been shown in multiple studies that fluoroquinolones are effective in treating bacterial keratitis.
Culture testing of the cornea is recommended for corneal ulcers that are large and causing severe symptoms. The reason that this is important is that common ocular pathogens are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics. Another reason is to determine the right antibiotic to treat your specific infection. Additionally, it should be done before the treatment begins.
After the infection has cleared, depending on how severe your infection was, our eye doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory eye drop or steroid eye drop to reduce inflammation and decrease corneal scarring.
Surgery may be required for patients who are not responsive to medication. An amniotic membrane graft may be applied under sterile conditions to promote healing. In cases of severe scarring, a corneal transplant may be performed to replace diseased corneal tissue with healthy tissue from a donor.
Bandage contact lenses
Bandage contact lenses can be an effective way at treating corneal ulcers by both protecting the wound and enabling healing.
A corneal ulcer is a wound that appears on the surface of your cornea caused primarily by infection, but not necessarily. An ulcer can also form on your cornea if you have an injury to your cornea. Anyone can develop a corneal ulcer, regardless of age, however contact lens wear is the primary cause of corneal ulcers in the US. The severity of corneal ulcers can vary depending on their cause. A corneal ulcer is an eye emergency that should be treated as soon as possible because it can lead to vision loss. Because of the potential for a corneal ulcer to lead to vision loss, you should see our optometrist as soon as you start exhibiting symptoms.
You can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.