Recognizing the Signs of a Corneal Ulcer - SightMD Skip to main content

May 20, 2024

By: Catherine Furey, MD

Recognizing the Signs of a Corneal Ulcer

Understanding Corneal Ulcers

Before delving into the signs of a corneal ulcer, let’s briefly review what a corneal ulcer is and how it develops. A corneal ulcer is a localized infection or inflammation of the cornea, typically caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other microorganisms. Factors such as trauma, contact lens wear, dry eye syndrome, and underlying medical conditions can increase the risk of corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers can cause significant discomfort and vision problems if left untreated.

Signs and Symptoms of Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers can present with various signs and symptoms, which may include:

  1. Eye Pain: Corneal ulcers often cause severe eye pain, which may worsen with blinking or movement of the eye.
  2. Redness: The affected eye may appear red or bloodshot due to inflammation and irritation.
  3. Blurred Vision: Vision may become blurred or hazy as a result of the corneal ulcer affecting the clarity of the cornea.
  4. Sensitivity to Light: Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, is common in individuals with corneal ulcers, leading to discomfort in bright environments.
  5. Excessive Tearing: The eye may produce excess tears in response to irritation and inflammation caused by the corneal ulcer.
  6. Foreign Body Sensation: Some individuals may experience a sensation of having a foreign object or grit in the eye.
  7. Eye Discharge: Corneal ulcers can cause discharge from the eye, which may be watery, purulent (pus-like), or mucopurulent (mixture of mucus and pus).

Causes of Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Bacterial Infections: Common bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause corneal ulcers, particularly in individuals who wear contact lenses or have compromised immune systems.
  2. Viral Infections: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) or varicella-zoster virus (VZV) can lead to viral keratitis and the development of corneal ulcers.
  3. Fungal Infections: Fungal keratitis, often associated with trauma or agricultural injuries, can result in corneal ulcers caused by fungi such as Fusarium or Aspergillus species.
  4. Trauma: Corneal abrasions or injuries, including those caused by foreign bodies or contact lens misuse, can create a pathway for infection and ulceration.
  5. Dry Eye Syndrome: Insufficient tear production or poor tear quality can compromise the cornea’s integrity and increase the risk of corneal ulcers.

Treatment Options for Corneal Ulcers

Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing corneal ulcers and preventing complications. Treatment options for corneal ulcers may include:

  1. Topical Antibiotics: Broad-spectrum antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat bacterial corneal ulcers and prevent further infection.
  2. Antiviral Medications: In cases of viral keratitis, antiviral medications may be prescribed to control viral replication and reduce inflammation.
  3. Antifungal Agents: Fungal corneal ulcers require treatment with antifungal medications, which may be administered orally, topically, or through intravenous infusion.
  4. Lubricating Eye Drops: Lubricating eye drops or ointments can help soothe the eye and alleviate discomfort associated with corneal ulcers.
  5. Corneal Patching: In some cases, a therapeutic contact lens or bandage contact lens may be placed over the cornea to protect the ulcer and promote healing.
  6. Surgical Intervention: Severe or persistent corneal ulcers may require surgical intervention, such as corneal debridement, amniotic membrane transplantation, or corneal grafting.

Corneal Disease Care at SightMD

Corneal ulcers are a serious eye condition that requires prompt evaluation and treatment to prevent vision loss and complications. If you experience any signs or symptoms of a corneal ulcer, such as eye pain, redness, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention from an experienced ophthalmologist or eye care professional. At SightMD, our team of skilled ophthalmologists and eye care specialists is dedicated to providing prompt evaluation and comprehensive treatment for corneal ulcers and other eye conditions. Don’t delay—book your appointment at SightMD today and take the first step towards preserving your vision and eye health.