5 Things To Know About Corneal Ulcers

by Jul 5, 2023

A corneal ulcer is a serious eye infection in the front of the eye. An ulcer can be a result of an infection by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. No matter the cause of the infection, a corneal ulcer is a threat to result in permanent vision loss and potentially blind the eye. Due to the severity of the condition, treatment for a corneal ulcer is started immediately and the condition is monitored frequently as the treatment continues. Based on the type of infection, different eye drops or oral medications can be prescribed. In the most severe cases, hospitalization for IV medications may be needed.


What is an Ulcer?

The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye where contact sits. This structure is a prime site for infection if there is any damage – a scratch or abrasion – or if it is exposed to aggressive infections.

The cornea is supposed to be completely clear and free of defects. If an infection develops, it will cause hazy, or white, discoloration in the area.

As the immune system attacks the pathogen, it causes inflammation in the cornea and may have swelling, new blood vessel growth, and lots of discomforts.


Bacterial Corneal Ulcers

The most common cause of a corneal ulcer is a bacterial infection. These types of ulcers are often seen in patients who wear contact lenses.

A corneal ulcer from a bacterial infection will be characteristically round and can be in various sizes from very small to very large.

A bacterial corneal ulcer can be diagnosed by an eye doctor and will usually be treated with antibiotic eye drops.

These eye drops will be used frequently throughout the day to rapidly expose the bacteria to a sufficient dose of the medication and begin the process of ridding the infection from the eye.

The doctor will typically monitor the resolution of the bacterial corneal ulcer closely and there will be several follow-up visits to ensure that treatment is working properly.


Viral Corneal Ulcers

Some corneal ulcers are due to a viral infection – usually a herpes family virus. These ulcers have elongated branches and appear like a tree shape when viewed with a microscope.

Viral ulcers may cause extreme pain, redness, and watering from the eye.

Treatment for a viral ulcer can be either eye drops or oral medications. Since the herpes virus infects the entire body and can cause other problems such as a rash with shingles, oral medication may be necessary.

Like a bacterial corneal ulcer, a viral ulcer will need to be monitored until it is resolved completely.


Fungal Corneal Ulcer

If there was an injury from a tree branch, dirty fingernail, or other potential vegetative matter, there is a risk of developing a fungal infection in the cornea.

A fungal corneal ulcer is harder to treat and often more aggressive than either a bacterial or viral ulcer.

Treatment for a fungal ulcer will include both antifungal eye drops and oral medications. An eye doctor will monitor the healing of a fungal ulcer very closely and ensure that the infection does not spread.


Other Corneal Ulcers

There are other possible causes of corneal ulcers including a parasitic amoeba, Acanthamoeba, which are more common after swimming in hot tubs or lakes with contact lenses in the eyes.

These ulcers may require specialized treatment to prevent permanent scarring in the eyes.


Our eye doctors at Perception Eyecare + Eyewear in Richardson, TX excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call our optometrists at 972-250-0700 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about corneal ulcers. Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Richardson, TX and the surrounding vicinities of Garland, University Park, Sachse, and Highland Park.


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