Dealing With Corneal Ulcers

Posted on: 20 May 2015

Corneal ulcers are small holes in the cornea, the clear covering over the iris that also holds in the eye's fluid. Ulcers are potentially serious and, as soon as they are discovered, must be treated. There are several reasons why a corneal ulcer can form and their treatment is based on their cause.

What are the symptoms of corneal ulcers?

Corneal ulcers can present themselves as blurry vision in certain parts of the visual field. They may also be visible on the eye as a yellow or dark spot in the cornea. Some people may experience eye pain, redness, excessive tearing, or swelling around the eyelids.

What causes corneal ulcers?

Most corneal ulcers are caused by the following:

Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections are the most common cause of corneal ulcers. Fortunately, most of these infections can be easily treated. Infections can be caused by scratches to the eye due to debris or trauma and  from not wearing contact lenses properly, especially wearing them overnight.

Fungal infections: Fungal infections can be caused by improper care and use of contact lenses. They can also be caused by using eye drops that contain steroids. Steroid eye drops are often prescribed to people who have inflammatory eye diseases.

Viral infections: Certain diseases, such as a herpes simplex virus, can cause ulcers in the cornea. These diseases directly infect and inflame the various layers of the cornea. Varicella, the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles, can also affect that area of the eye. Some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, can also cause ulcers.

How are corneal ulcers treated?

Treatment often depends on the cause of the ulcer. Treating the bacterial infection can often reduce an ulcer. However, in the case of the herpes virus, the problem may reoccur. Reducing or eliminating the use of contact lenses while treating the infection can help. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Once the infection and ulcers are gone, some doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce the risk of scarring.

How can corneal ulcers be prevented?

One of the best ways to prevent getting a corneal ulcer in the first place is to take care of your eyes. Use eye protection in areas where there is a chance that debris may get into them. Follow your doctor's recommendations if you wear contact lenses. If you have an auto-immune disease, make sure your optometrist and ophthalmologist are aware of it. See your eye doctor if your eyes are unusually swollen and red or you are experiencing any pain.