Corneal ulcer is an open ulcer or sore on the cornea, which is the thin transparent covering over the front of the eye. It appears as a gray opaque patch of varying sizes with irritation and inflammation on the cornea. If left untreated, corneal ulcers affect vision and may result in its complete loss, while with correct and timely treatment it is completely curable with no effect on vision.
The primary reason for corneal ulcers is infection. Bacterial infections are a common cause of corneal ulcers in contact lens wearers. Infection is easier if the cornea is scratched or damaged due to contact lens. Some bacteria produce toxins which are another cause of corneal ulcers. Viral infections including herpes and varicella can cause corneal ulcers. Fungal infections and some parasites may also cause corneal ulcers. Overuse and improper use of contact lenses is a huge cause of corneal ulcers. Also, if the cornea develops tiny scratches or cut on the surface due to mechanical injury, abrasion, caustic solution splashing into the eyes, etc., infection becomes easier and corneal ulcers develop. Eyes drying up too much or too frequently increase the risk of corneal ulcers due to the absence of the lubricating antiseptic film of tears. Certain autoimmune diseases can also cause corneal ulcers.
Corneal ulcers are easily preventable. Treatment procedures target the cause of the ulcer. Early detection of the cause and successful treatment can cure corneal ulcer completely without loss of vision.
Treatment procedures for corneal ulcers target the cause of the ulcer. Antimicrobial eye drops or ointments are commonly used. Apart from killing the infection causing agent, they also provide lubrication to the eyeballs. For ulcers caused by injury to the cornea, the irritant is removed from the eye. If a wrongly growing eyelash causes the irritation, the lash along with its root is removed. Use of contact lenses is to be discontinued irrespective of the cause of the ulcer. In cases where the ulcer has grown substantially large or the scarring of the cornea is too severe, surgical transplantation of the cornea is performed. Autoimmune diseases causing corneal ulcers are treated using immune therapy.
Corneal ulcers are preventable and cause no adverse effects on vision if treatment is done correctly and timely. People who complain of irritation in the eyes, especially users of contact lenses need to be checked for the condition and treated accordingly. If regular irritation occurs in the eyes and persists after thoroughly washing the eyes and using eye drops, it is advisable to get checked for corneal ulcer and get treated accordingly.
People who do not have irritation or other problems in the eyes, are not regular users of contact lenses, and take good care of their eyes do not need to be treated for corneal ulcers. Sometimes persistent eye irritation can occur due to conditions not related to or not causing corneal ulcers. No treatment s necessary for these cases.
Treatment of corneal ulcers have very few side effects. In rare cases, some eye drops may cause an allergic reaction, and surgeries may be associated with a small risk of scarring.
After treatment for corneal ulcer, it is advisable to discontinue the use of contact lenses, if any. It is also advised to keep the eyes healthy, use any eye drops prescribed, and to not use spectacles towels, etc. used by others to minimize risk of infection.
Recovery period varies from person to person. In general, the ulcer heals in about 2 to 3 weeks. Treatment may be continued further to prevent scarring and effects on vision.
Price of treatment starts from Rs. 100 for over the counter eye drops and goes up to Rs. 10,000 or higher for surgical procedures and long term treatments.
Successful treatment of corneal ulcers has permanent results as long as a second infection does not occur.
Alternative treatment and home remedies are available that target the infection causing microorganisms and reduce eye irritation.