Symptoms of a corneal ulcer include a painful red eye with mild to severe eye discharge and reduced vision. The condition results from a localized infection of the cornea. In most cases, corneal ulcers are due to a bacterial infection of the cornea — often following damage or trauma to the eye.
Individuals that wear contact lenses are particularly susceptible to eye irritation that can lead to corneal ulcers. A contact lens may rub against the eye's surface, creating slight damage to the epithelium that may allow bacteria to penetrate the eye. Contact lens wearers can avoid corneal ulcers by practising good hygiene, such as washing their hands before handling lenses. In addition to bacterial infection, corneal ulcers can also be caused by fungi, parasites and/or the herpes simplex virus (ocular herpes). Other conditions that lead to the development of corneal ulcers include severely dry eyes, eye allergies and/or general infections. Immune system disorders and inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis and psoriasis also commonly lead to the development of corneal ulcers.
If an optometrist suspects that bacteria are the cause of the corneal ulcer in question, they will typically prescribe topical antibiotics. Most optometrists will see patients with corneal ulcers every one to three days, depending on the severity of the condition. Recovery times vary and depend largely on the location of the ulcer. If the ulceration is located in the central cornea, the condition usually takes longer to go away, and vision may be reduced permanently due to scarring. Unfortunately, permanent damage and vision loss may occur, even if the condition is identified and treated early.
If you suspect that you may have a corneal ulcer, please see an optometrist immediately. In Edmonton, visit the optometrists at Eye-deology Vision Care.