Corneal Ulcers: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

What are Corneal Ulcers?

The cornea is an important part of the eye. It is located in front of the eye and is a layer of tissue. Cornea allows light to go into the eye. It also acts as a protector of the eye preventing it from infiltration of various types of bacteria, virus, and fungi. Sometimes, generally due to infections, a sore forms in this layer of tissue in front of the eye. This is what is called as a Corneal Ulcer.

Additionally, any injury to this part of the eye may also result in the development of a Corneal Ulcer. Contact lenses are also known to cause Corneal Ulcers, as they are the primary cause of eye infections. An affected individual with a Corneal Ulcer will have an extremely itchy eye and it might be painful as well.

An individual with Corneal Ulcer will also experience discomfort when looking at bright lights like in a rock concert. If left untreated, Corneal Ulcer can leads to permanent blindness. Thus it is important to address and treat this condition at its earliest.

What are Corneal Ulcers?

What Is The Cause Of Corneal Ulcer?

Some of the infections which can lead to Corneal Ulcer are:

Acanthamoeba Keratitis. This is an infection of the eye seen generally in people who wear contact lenses. It is pretty rare but if an individual is infected it may quickly progress and lead to temporary or permanent blindness.

Fungal Keratitis. As the name suggests it is a fungal infection that develops in the cornea usually from a plant. People with a compromised immune system are most at risk for developing this type of infection leading to corneal ulcers.

Herpes Simplex Keratitis. This is an infection caused by a virus which leads to relapsing ulcers in the cornea. These flare ups tend to be triggered by various factors like stress, excessive exposure of the eyes to direct sunlight, or a compromised immune system.

Additionally, some of the other potential causes fort corneal ulcers include:

What is the Symptom Of Corneal Ulcer?

The primary presenting features of Corneal Ulcer include:

  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Burning sensation in the eye
  • Eyes turning reddish
  • Photosensitivity
  • A visible sore in the eye
  • Continuous flow of tears
  • Blurry vision
  • A visible spot on the cornea
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye

The symptoms of corneal ulcer are usually quite severe in intensity and require immediate treatment to prevent significant damage to the eye leading to temporary or permanent blindness.

How to diagnose Corneal Ulcer?

If there is a suspicion of a corneal ulcer in an individual a referral to an ophthalmologist is mandatory. There are various tests that will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis of Corneal Ulcer.

The first test done for this purpose is called as fluorescein eye stain test. In this test, a dye is placed in a strip of blotting paper and the paper is then gently touched in the eye surface. Then a slit lamp is used to explore the eye and look for any areas of damage. There will be a visible change of color when the light is shown in the eye in cases of corneal ulcer thus confirming the diagnosis.

Once a corneal ulcer is identified, the next step is to know the cause of it. For this, the ophthalmologist will put some eyedrops to numb the area. A part of the ulcer will be scraped off from the cornea and sent for detailed laboratory analysis to identify a cause for the Corneal Ulcer.

How is Corneal Ulcer Treated?

Before treatment, the ophthalmologist will first take a brief history of the patient asking whether he or she has been wearing contact lenses, eye makeup, rubbing eyes with fingers consistently.

The treatment for a Corneal Ulcer depends on the cause of it. Once a cause is identified whether it is bacterial, fungal, or viral appropriate medications are prescribed in the form of an antibacterial, antifungal, or an antiviral eyedrops.

Additionally, steroid drops may also be prescribed to calm down the swelling and inflammation. For severe infection that are not amenable to conservative treatment alone, a corneal transplant is recommended. In this procedure, the damaged corneal is removed and replaced with that of a donor.

However, as inherent with other surgical procedure there are certain risks attached to this procedure which include but not limited to:

What is the Prognosis for Corneal Ulcer?

If corneal ulcer is not identified and treated on time, then it may lead to irreparable damage to the cornea leading to permanent blindness. This is mainly because there is significant scarring around the retina obstructing the formation of an image in the eye.

Corneal Ulcer is a treatable condition and majority of people completely recover after treatment for this condition. However, in some cases the eyesight of the patient may become weak even after treatment of Corneal Ulcer.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 21, 2022

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