Corneal Ulcers/Contact Lens Infections
Corneal ulcers, or keratitis, can form due to trauma to the cornea, eyelid disease, severe dry eye, Infections of the cornea and in patients who wear contact lenses.
Most corneal ulcers are caused from infections including:
These are common in contact lens wearers, especially in people using extended-wear lenses.
The virus that causes cold sores (the herpes simplex virus) may cause recurring attacks that are triggered by stress, an impaired immune system, or exposure to sunlight. Also, the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles (the varicella virus) can cause corneal ulcers.
Improper use of contact lenses or steroid eyedrops can lead to fungal infections, which in turn can cause corneal ulcers. Also, a corneal injury that results in plant material getting into the eye can lead to fungal keratitis.
Parasitic (Acanthamoeba) infections
Acanthamoeba are microscopic, single-celled amoeba that can cause human infection. They are the most common amoebae in fresh water and soil. When Acanthamoeba enters the eye it can cause severe infection, particularly for contact lens users.
Poor contact lens hygiene, sleeping in contact lenses, or overwear can lead to an infection resulting in a corneal ulcer. If left untreated, corneal ulcers can cause severe damage or even corneal perforation.
The symptoms of corneal ulcers may include:
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to light
Treatment for corneal ulcers depends on the cause. Infectious corneal ulcers are treated with antibiotics, antifungal or antiviral eyedrops are the mainstay of treatment. Sometimes antifungal tablets will be prescribed, or an injection of medication is given near the eye for treatment. Once any infection has diminished or is gone, then steroid or anti-inflammatory eyedrops may be used to reduce swelling and help prevent scarring. The use of steroid eyedrops is controversial and should only be used under close supervision by your ophthalmology. It is possible that steroid eyedrops may worsen an infection. In rare cases when the cornea is severely damaged, a corneal transplant may be necessary to improve vision.