Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers generally heal well if treated early and aggressively. However if neglected, corneal scarring may develop, resulting in serious loss of vision and possibly loss of the eye. Corneal ulcers are a serious vision-threatening condition and require prompt medical attention. See your eye doctor IMMEDIATELY if you experience any of the symptoms below.

The front of the eye is covered with a thin, transparent membrane called the cornea, which protects the interior of the eye. If there is a break or defect in the surface layer of the cornea, called the epithelium, and damage to the underlying stroma, a corneal ulcer results. The ulcer is usually caused by microorganisms, which gain access to the stroma through the break in the epithelium.


Symptoms of corneal ulcers:

  • Watery eyes
  • Acute pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • The feeling that there’s something in your eye
  • Discharge from the eye

Causes of corneal ulcers:

  • Infection
  • Wearing contact lenses for excessive periods of time
  • Inadequate contact lens sterilization
  • Eye injury
  • Lack of tear production
  • Complications of herpes simplex keratitis, neurotrophic keratitis, chronic blepharitis, conjunctivitis
  • Eyelid abnormalities

Diagnosing corneal ulcers:

Corneal ulcers are a serious vision-threatening condition and require prompt medical attention. If left unattended, corneal ulcers may penetrate the cornea allowing infection to enter the eye, which can cause permanent loss of vision and possible loss of the eye. Your eye doctor can identify corneal ulcers by examining your eyes with magnifying instruments and if necessary by taking a culture to identify infection. Your doctor will check your eye, including under your eyelid, to make sure there are no foreign materials present.

Treatment for corneal ulcers:

If treated early, corneal ulcers are usually curable. They are typically treated with antibiotic eye drops,often several different types. Sometimes they are available in commercial preparations but occasionally in serious ulcers, a compounding pharmacy will need to mix up more potent drops. Sometimes, topical steroids will also be used to decrease the risk of scarring and inflammation. Expect to be seen for frequent follow-up visits.

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