Corneal ulcer is a medical condition in which the cornea as the front layer of the eye, has an open wound. Usually, these sores appear as a result of an infection.
Eye infections can occur due to minor injuries or dirt in the eye. One of the contributing factors is the use of contact lenses.
The cornea of the eye is transparent and clear in color. When a person has a corneal ulcer, a grayish or white spot appears on the colorless cornea.
Not all corneal ulcers can be seen with the naked eye. Some ulcers may appear very small and barely visible unless viewed by a magnifying glass.
Causes of Corneal Ulcer
The primary cause of corneal ulcers is infection. These infections can include:
- Viral infections, including the herpes simplex virus – the virus that causes chickenpox.
- Bacterial infection that causes ulcers on the cornea. This condition often occurs in people who wear contact lenses.
- Fungal infections, including unusual causes of corneal ulcers. This is caused by using eye drops containing steroids or wearing contact lenses that are not cleaned properly
Certain types of infections further trigger corneal ulcers. These types of infections include:
- Acanthamoeba keratitis. Amoebic infections are not too dangerous, but in some cases may cause blindness.
- Herpes simplex keratitis. Viral infection that causes repeated (recurrent) sores in the eye. This relapse can be triggered by prolonged sun exposure or stress.
- Fungal keratitis. Infections that can occur in people with weakened immune systems.
There are also several other factors that can cause a person to develop corneal ulcers, namely:
- Dry eyes.
- Eye injury
- Vitamin A deficiency.
- Dirty contact lenses.
When to See a Doctor for Corneal Ulcer?
Corneal ulcers are a condition that affect the cornea, which is one of the eye layers. For this reason, examinations and consultations regarding corneal ulcers should be done with an ophthalmologist.
The presence of a corneal ulcer can be detected by an ophthalmologist when the patient is undergoing an eye examination. One of the eye examinations to detect corneal ulcers is through fluorescein eye drops.
This test is done by dripping orange dye onto a sheet of thin, special paper. The dye will be channeled into the eye by pointing the paper at the surface of the eye.
The doctor will use a microscope device called a slit lamp to shine a special ultraviolet light on the patient’s eye and look for areas of the damaged cornea. The damaged part will appear green under ultraviolet light exposure.
After confirming the patient is indeed suffering from a corneal ulcer, the doctor will try to find out the cause of the ulcer. The examination is continued by taking a sample to be tested in the laboratory.
Sampling is done by dropping a particular eye medication into the patient’s eye. This will make the patient’s eye become numb for a while. The doctor will then slowly scrape the ulcer to get a sample. The test results will be able to determine if the ulcer is caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
Symptoms of Corneal Ulcer
The most visible symptom of corneal ulcers is the appearance of a white, grayish spot on the cornea. However, these spots are not always visible. Some patients don’t even notice an ulcer until they have an eye examination with a doctor.
Before a corneal ulcer appears, the patient will usually get the following symptoms:
- Red eye.
- Itchy and watery eyes.
- Sensitive to light.
- Burning or stinging sensation in the eye.
- Eye discharge resembling pus.
As corneal ulcers develop, there will be further worsening symptoms, such as:
- Extreme pain
- Eye blockage.
- Changes in vision abilities.
- Eye discharge resembling pus
Symptoms of corneal ulcers are severe and need to be treated immediately. A delayed treatment of the corneal ulcer condition may lead to blindness.
Treatment for Corneal Ulcer
Once the doctor determines the cause of the corneal ulcer, the patient will be given antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral drugs to treat the symptoms based on the causative factor. If the infection is very severe, the doctor may give special eye drops that does not contain steroids.
During treatment, patients will be advised to avoid the following:
- Avoid wearing contact lenses.
- Avoid touching eyes with fingers.
- Avoid putting on makeup around the eyes.
In cases of severe corneal ulcers, further treatment such as surgery or a corneal transplant may be required. Surgery usually will only be performed if medicines do not manage to control the growth of the ulcer and the corneal condition worsens.
If the corneal condition has worsened and is untreatable, the patient will be asked to undergo a corneal transplant. Transplantation is done through a surgical procedure to remove the corneal tissue and replace it with donor tissue.
Although it may improve the condition of the cornea, corneal transplants can cause complications or new diseases that arise as a result of old existing diseases. These complications include:
- Eye infection.
- Swelling of the cornea.
- High eye pressure or glaucoma.
Treatment Cost for Corneal Ulcer
The cost for corneal ulcer treatment varies, depending on the severity and treatment method given.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of corneal ulcer treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Corneal Ulcer
The best way to avoid corneal ulcers is to have regular eye health checks. That way, doctors can detect corneal ulcers early.
When a patient starts to become aware of a corneal ulcer, the patient should consult an ophthalmologist immediately to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Several other preventive measures that can be undertaken include:
- Washing your hands before touching your eyes.
- Avoiding sleeping with contact lenses.
- Regularly washing contact lenses before and after use.
- Washing your eyes regularly to remove dirt stuck to your eyes.
For patients who have mild cases of corneal ulcers, these are ways that can keep it from worsening:
- Wear eye protection.
- Be careful or reduce wearing of contact lenses.
- Use artificial tear drops for dry eyes or improperly closed eyes
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Corneal Ulcer
Home remedies to treat corneal ulcer may include:
- Avoid touching and rubbing your eyes with your fingers.
- Remove or stop wearing contact lenses immediately.
- Diligently wash your hands and dry them with a clean cloth.
- Compress the infected eye using cold water or ice cubes.
- Routinely take medicines prescribed by the doctor