A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea — the clear front window of the eye. The cornea covers the iris (the colored portion of the eye) and the round pupil, much like a watch crystal covers the face of a watch.
A corneal ulcer usually results from an eye infection, though it can be caused by severe dry eye or other eye disorders. People at risk for corneal ulcers include contact lens wearers, people who have or have had cold sores, chicken pox or shingles, use steroids eyedrops, suffer from severe dry eye, have eyelid disorders that prevent proper functioning of the eyelid or people who suffer injury or burns to the cornea.
Symptoms may include:
- The feeling of having something in your eye
- Pain and soreness of the eye
- Redness of the eye
- Pus or other discharge
- Sensitivity to light
- A white spot on the cornea
- Swelling of the eye lids
- Blurred vision
Typically antibiotics, antifungal or antiviral eyedrops are indicated for 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.
If corneal ulcers cannot be treated with medication, surgery may be needed to keep your vision. A corneal transplant can replace your damaged cornea with a healthy donor cornea to restore vision.