Corneal ulcers and infections
The cornea is the clear (transparent) tissue at the front of the eye. A corneal ulcer is an erosion or open sore in the outer layer of the cornea. It is often caused by infection.
Bacterial keratitis; Fungal keratitis; Acanthamoeba keratitis; Herpes simplex keratitis
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:
Contact lens wear, especially soft contact lenses worn overnight, may cause a corneal ulcer.
Symptoms of infection or ulcers of the cornea include:
Exams and Tests
Blood tests to check for inflammatory disorders may also be needed.
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, patients may be given antibiotic drops that work against many kinds of bacteria.
Once the exact cause is known, drops that treat bacteria, herpes, other viruses, or a fungus are prescribed. Severe ulcers sometimes require a corneal transplant.
Corticosteroid eye drops may be used to reduce swelling and inflammation in certain conditions.
Your health care provider may also recommend that you:
Many people recover completely from corneal ulcers or infections, or they have only a minor change in vision.
However, a corneal ulcer or infection can cause long-term damage to the cornea and affect vision.
Untreated corneal ulcers and infections may lead to:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
Getting treated for an eye infection by an ophthalmologist right away may prevent ulcers from forming. Wash hands and pay very close attention to cleanliness while handling contact lenses. Avoid wearing contact lenses overnight.
Groos Jr. EB. Compliations of Contact Lenses. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology On DVD-ROM. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012: chap 27.
Yanoff M, Cameron D. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 431.
McLeod SD. Bacterial keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.12.
McLeod SD. Fungal keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.13.
Tuli SS. Herpes simplex keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.15.
Soukiasian S. Peripheral ulcerative keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.16.
Bouchard CS. Noninfectious keratitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.17.
Review Date: 9/3/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.