Bacterial keratitis; Fungal keratitis; Acanthamoeba keratitis; Herpes simplex keratitis
The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of the eye. A corneal ulcer is an open sore in the outer layer of the cornea. It is often caused by infection. At first, a corneal ulcer may seem like conjunctivitis, or pink eye.
Corneal ulcers are most commonly caused by an infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or a parasite.
Corneal ulcers or infections may also be caused by:
Wearing contact lenses, especially soft contacts that are left in overnight, may cause a corneal ulcer.
Symptoms of infection or ulcers of the cornea include:
Your health care provider may do the following tests:
Blood tests to check for inflammatory disorders may also be needed.
Using newer information systems to evaluate photos of corneal ulcers may allow earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for corneal ulcers and infections depends on the cause. Treatment should be started as soon as possible to prevent scarring of the cornea.
If the exact cause is not known, you may be given antibiotic drops that work against many kinds of bacteria.
Once the exact cause is known, you may be given drops that treat bacteria, herpes, other viruses, or a fungus. Severe ulcers sometimes require a corneal transplant.
Corticosteroid eye drops may be used to reduce swelling and inflammation in certain conditions.
Your provider may also recommend that you:
Many people recover completely and have only a minor change in vision. However, a corneal ulcer or infection can cause long-term damage and affect vision.
Untreated corneal ulcers and infections may lead to:
Contact your provider if:
Things you can do to prevent the condition include:
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Cioffi GA, Liebmann JM. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 395.
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Review Date: 8/22/2022
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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