Corneal ulcer is an open sore that appears on the cornea; a thin, transparent structure that covers the iris and pupil of the eye. This article discusses the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for the same.
Corneal ulcer, also known as ulcerative keratitis, is a common eye condition that is characterized by infection or inflammation on the cornea of the eye. The cornea is a thin, transparent membrane, that covers the iris and the pupil of the eye. An erosion or open sore can occur on the surface of the cornea due to several different factors. It can cause disruption of its epithelial layer involving the corneal stroma.
Corneal ulcers generally occur after corneal trauma with a foreign body. This condition is most commonly caused by an infection of bacteria, virus, or fungi. Dry eyes or lid diseases allow various microorganisms (bacteria, virus, and fungi) to enter the eyes and affect the cornea, causing a deep infection and inflammation. People who wear contact lenses are at a higher risk for various types of bacterial infections. Improper care of contact lenses, and contamination or overuse of eye drops containing certain steroids, can cause fungal infections that may eventually lead to inflammation of cornea. Viruses that can cause ulcers include herpes simplex virus and varicella virus (chickenpox virus).
Foreign bodies including metallic or glass particles that strike the cornea may scratch or damage it, allowing bacteria to invade the corneal surface. Dry eyes, which result from certain eye diseases or allergic reactions to certain substances, can make your eye vulnerable to various infections and ultimately lead to this condition. Injury to the cornea due to caustic solution splashes or chemical burns again increases the risk of this condition.
Cornea is a highly sensitive part of the eye, and any damage to it tends to produce severe pain.
- Redness of the Eye
- Severe pain
- Blurred vision
- Swollen eyelids
- Eye Irritation
- Burning sensation in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye discharge
A white or gray spot may appear on the cornea that is visible with the naked eye. These ulcers are extremely painful as they involve nerve exposure. In some cases, anterior uveitis, such as miosis and aqueous flare, can occur. Although appearance of these symptoms may not necessarily mean that you have developed a lesion in the cornea, it is advisable to consult a qualified health care professional as soon as you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms. If this condition is left untreated, it can cause vision problems or a complete loss of vision.
Diagnosis of this condition can be generally made through a normal eye examination by an ophthalmologist. A special eye microscope known as slit lamp may be used, which magnifies the surface of the cornea to detect the tiny ulcer. Determination of the cause is very important for proper treatment of the condition. There are several treatment options available depending on the cause of the ulcer. For example, if it is caused due to a bacterial infection, it may require an intensive fortified antibiotic therapy for a complete cure.
On the other hand, if it is caused due to a fungal infection, it may require application of topical antifungal agents. Similarly, viral infections may be treated with the use of certain antivirals. Healing time depends on the nature and severity of the condition. Superficial ulcers may require less than a week to heal completely, whereas deep ulcers may require more time. In severe cases, a corneal transplant may be needed to cure the condition.
Corneal ulcers can also be caused due to a deficiency of certain nutrients, including proteins, and vitamin A and C. Hence, a proper diet including sufficient amounts of all the essential nutrients can help cure this condition. However, it is advisable that you consult a qualified health care professional for proper diagnosis and effective treatment.