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Corneal Ulcers

April 15, 2015

If you have noticed a sore or opening on the clear outer covering of your eye(cornea), you may be experiencing a corneal ulcer.  Some ulcers may appear as a gray to white area on the normally transparent cornea. However, some corneal ulcers may be too small to see without adequate magnification and illumination. This can sometimes be caused by bacterial or viral infections or even overuse or misuse of contacts among other reasons.   Anyone with an irritated eye that does not improve quickly after removing a contact lens or after mild irrigation should contact an ophthalmologist immediately.

Here are some quick facts about corneal ulcers: how they form, their symptoms and treatments.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of a corneal ulcer –

  • Redness, pain, a feeling that something is in the eye.
  • Pus or thick discharge draining from the eye.
  • Blurriness or pain when looking at bright lights.
  • Swelling of the eyelid.

Causes – There are a wide variety of causes of corneal ulcers, including:

  • Bacterial infections can cause corneal ulcers and are common in people who wear contact lenses.
  • Viruses such as  herpes simplex virus (the virus that causes cold sores) and the Varicella virus may cause corneal ulcers.
  • Fungal infections can cause corneal ulcers and may occur with improper care of contact lenses or overuse of eye drops that contain steroids.

Treatment Options –

  • Anti-infective agents directed at the inciting microbial agent will be used in cases of corneal ulcer due to infection. (Drops, or possibly oral medications)
  • In cases aggravated by dryness or corneal exposure, tear substitutes will be used, possibly accompanied by patching or a bandage contact lens.
  • In corneal ulcers involving injury, the inciting agent must be removed from the eye- using a slit lamp microscope to to remove the particles causing the injury.
  • In extreme cases surgery may be needed to debride the ulcer.