The cornea covers the iris and the pupil and accounts for approximately two-thirds of the eye’s total focusing power. If the cornea becomes infected, injured, or extremely irritated, an open sore may form, which is referred to as a corneal ulcer.
A corneal ulcer usually results from an eye infection, either bacterial, viral, or fungal. Improper use of contact lenses or scratches on the eye can lead to bacterial and fungal infections that then evolve into corneal ulcers. In addition, severe dry eye syndrome or an eyelid disorder that prevents proper eyelid function and causes the cornea to dry out can also cause open sores.
Corneal ulcers are serious, and can permanently damage your vision or even cause blindness if left untreated. Symptoms of corneal ulcers may include:
- Redness of the eye
- Severe pain and soreness of the eye
- Pain when blinking
- Feeling like something is stuck in your eye
- Pus or discharge
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Eyelid swelling
- A white spot on your cornea that may or may not be visible when looking in the mirror
Any eye injury, eye infection, or condition that contributes to the cornea drying out increases the risk of developing a corneal ulcer. You can reduce your risk by caring for and wearing contact lenses properly and by wearing protective glasses when doing any activity that poses a risk to your eyes. Your risk increases if you:
- Wear contact lenses
- Have dry eyes
- Have injured or scratched the cornea
- Use steroid eye drops
- Have had cold sores, shingles, or chicken pox
- Have an eyelid disorder that prevents proper functioning
Diagnosis & Treatment
Corneal ulcers cannot accurately be self-diagnosed. Ophthalmologists diagnose corneal ulcers by using a special dye that lights up any damages of your cornea and a special microscope called a slit lamp. If an infection has caused your corneal ulcer, the ophthalmologist may also take a small sample to determine the type of infection in order to properly treat the condition.
Antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral eye drops are typically prescribed to treat corneal ulcers. In some cases, an injection of medication near the eye may be recommended. In more severe cases when vision loss or significant scarring has occurred, or when the ulcers can’t be treated with medication, surgery may be required. In these cases, a corneal transplant replaces the damaged cornea with a healthy donor cornea to restore vision.
The important thing to remember if you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort in your eye is to not wait it out. Seek care immediately. Baptist Eye Surgeons have emergency appointments available and can usually see you on the same day you call, with no referral needed.
Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN, dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from cosmetic improvements to complex eye surgeries. To learn more about our specialities, visit our website, or give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information, or schedule an appointment online.