Understanding Corneal Ulcer
A corneal ulcer is an open sore on your cornea. In most cases it’s caused by an infection. The cornea is the eye’s outermost layer. It is a clear, strong layer on the front of your eye. It helps protect your eye from dirt and germs. It also helps control how light enters your eye. Infection or injury to your cornea can cause an ulcer to form. Corneal ulcers can happen in people of any age. If not treated, a corneal ulcer can lead to loss of eyesight and even blindness.
What causes a corneal ulcer?
Many things can cause a corneal ulcer. These include:
Bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus
Viral infections, such as herpes
Scrapes or burns on the cornea
Conditions that dry out the cornea, such as dry eye or Bell’s palsy
Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
Injury to the cornea
Ulcers from reduced blood flow, such as from diabetes
Allergies causing inflammation of the eyes
Vitamin A deficiency (rare in the U.S.)
If you use contact lenses, you are more at risk for a corneal ulcer if you:
Wear soft contact lenses
Wear extended-wear contact lenses
Wear your lenses for longer than recommended
Don’t care for your lenses and lens case as told to
Put your contact lenses in water
Symptoms of a corneal ulcer
Symptoms of a corneal ulcer can include:
Severe eye pain
A feeling of something in your eye
Discharge from your eye
Sensitivity to light
Swelling of your eyelids
A white spot on your cornea
Diagnosing a corneal ulcer
You may see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist). He or she will ask about your past health and your symptoms. You will be given an eye exam. Your eyesight will be checked in both eyes. A dye may be put into your eye to help your eye doctor look at your cornea. He or she may use an ophthalmoscope, which uses a light to look into the back of your eye. You may be asked to look into a large tool called a slit-lamp. This lets your eye doctor see your eye in more detail.
Your cornea may be scraped and the sample sent to a lab. This is done to check for infection. If you wear contact lenses, your contact lenses may be sent to the lab too. You may also have blood tests to help find the cause of your corneal ulcer. Your treatment may vary depending on the cause.
October 30, 2017
Finke, Amy, RN, BSN,Haupert, Christopher L., MD,Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.