Corneal ulcers: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment.

A corneal ulcer is an erosion or open sore on the surface of the cornea . The cornea is the transparent area in the front of the eye that serves as a window through which we see. It also refracts light and protects other parts of the eye. If the cornea becomes inflamed due to infection or trauma, an ulcer can develop.

A corneal ulcer is a serious condition that must be treated immediately to avoid long-term vision problems. Although there are good medications available for treatment, corneal ulcers can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.

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Corneal ulcer symptoms

The symptoms of a corneal ulcer are usually obvious, especially if the ulcer is deep. Because the cornea is very sensitive, corneal ulcers cause severe pain. Sometimes vision is affected, eyes watery and red. It can also be painful to look at a bright light.

If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see an optometrist immediately:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Tearing
  • To shoot
  • White spot on the cornea
  • Blurry vision
  • Itching
  • Photosensitivity


Corneal ulcers are most often caused by germs. Although the human eye is well protected by the eyelid and abundant tears , germs and bacteria can enter the cornea through small abrasions if damaged.

Corneal ulcers are common in people who wear contact lenses, especially if they wear them at night. In fact, the risk of ulceration increases tenfold with the use of long-term soft contacts.

Generally, the deeper the corneal ulcer, the more serious the condition becomes. A very deep ulcer can scar the cornea, preventing light from entering the eye.

Common causes of corneal ulcers include the following:

  • Bacteria
  • Virus
  • Trauma, damage
  • Severe allergic disease
  • Mushrooms
  • Amoeba
  • Inadequate eyelid closure

Risk factors for corneal ulcers include:

  • Contact lens wearers
  • People with herpes, chickenpox, or shingles
  • People using steroid eye drops
  • People with dry eye syndrome
  • People with diseases of the eyelids that interfere with the proper functioning of the eyelid.
  • People who injure or burn the cornea


Early diagnosis is important when treating corneal ulcers. Your healthcare provider will ask you questions to help determine the cause of the ulcer.

The eyes will then need to be examined with a special biomicroscope called a slit lamp. A slit lamp exam will allow your doctor to see the damage to your cornea and determine if you have a corneal ulcer. A special dye called fluorescein will be placed in your eye to illuminate the area and aid in diagnosis.

If it is not clear what the exact cause is, your healthcare professional may take a small tissue sample or culture from the ulcer to learn how to properly treat it. After numbing the eye with special eye drops, the cells can be gently scraped off the surface of the cornea for examination.

Watch out

Treatment of corneal ulcers must be aggressive, as some ulcers can lead to vision loss and blindness. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and antiviral or antifungal medications.

Steroid eye drops can also be given to reduce inflammation. Some doctors prescribe topical eye drops several times a day until the ulcer is completely healed. In severe cases, patients are hospitalized to receive the correct treatment.

Certain supplements, such as vitamin C, may be prescribed to reduce corneal scarring. If the ulcer does not heal normally with conventional treatment, the amniotic membrane will be placed on the cornea for 7 to 10 days.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Severe or persistent pain and redness of the eyes.
  • Persistent eye discharge
  • Blurred vision appears suddenly

If a severe infection causes persistent scarring, a corneal transplant may be necessary to restore vision. In such cases, blindness or total loss of the eye may occur if treatment is delayed.

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