Corneal Ulcer: What is it?
Symptoms You May Experience:
Examination: What Your Eye Doctor Will Look For:
What You Can Do:
When To Call Your M.D.:
Prognosis: Will I See Better?
A corneal ulcer is a deep infection in the cornea, the clear, front surface of the eye. The infection usually develops from wearing contact lenses or after the cornea is scratched by an object such as fingernail (a corneal abrasion). The type of organism causing the infection is usually a bacterium or fungus. Corneal ulcers can be very aggressive and harmful if not found early and treated appropriately by an eye doctor.
If you develop a corneal ulcer, you may notice a decrease in your vision, tearing, milky or colored eye discharge, eye pain or redness, or sensitivity to light. You may see a white spot on the normally clear cornea.
Your doctor will examine your cornea with a slit lamp to look for a scratch with infection beneath it. He or she will also look for infection and inflammation in the tissues surrounding the cornea and in the anterior chamber. If a corneal ulcer is large or located in the center of the cornea, your eye doctor may perform cultures to identify the specific bacterium or fungus causing the infection. The ulcer will be measured so that its size and progress can be followed from visit to visit.
Use eye protection and avoid eye rubbing to prevent a corneal abrasion. If you think you may have scratched your eye, remove your contact lenses. Avoid sleeping in contact lenses, and never use tap water or saliva to clean your lenses.
If you think your eye may be scratched or if you develop vision loss, tearing, milky or colored eye discharge, eye pain or redness, or sensitivity to light, call your eye doctor promptly.
Your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops to target the bacterium or fungus causing the infection. These antibiotic eye drops may need to be used as often as every 30 minutes. He or she may also prescribe a dilating eye drop to decrease inflammation. You will likely have frequent eye exams while the corneal ulcer is being treated. If the ulcer causes significant corneal scarring after it has healed, a corneal transplant may ultimately be necessary in rare cases.
Many people have improved vision after a corneal ulcer has healed. In cases where serious scarring of the cornea results, the vision may be poor unless a corneal transplant is performed.
Above: A Typical Corneal Ulcer (Click For A Bigger View-Warning: Graphic)
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