When your vision is good, it’s easy to take it for granted. But your eyes are vulnerable to all sorts of injuries, including corneal ulcers, which are sores that can lead to a permanent loss of vision.
As many as 75,000 corneal ulcers are diagnosed every year in the United States. If an ulcer spreads, you may need a corneal transplant to replace your cornea.
At Advanced Eye Center in Hialeah, Florida, Rodrigo Belalcazar, MD, offers state-of-the-art care for corneal ulcers to help patients avoid serious complications and preserve their vision. But, as with other eye problems, early diagnosis is critical. Here’s what Dr. Belalcazar wants you to know about corneal ulcers, including what symptoms to look for.
The basics of corneal ulcers
Your cornea is a layer of clear tissue that covers the front of your eye. Together with tears, your cornea helps refract (bend) light as it enters your eye, so you can see more clearly. Plus, it provides a physical barrier that helps protect your eye.
Corneal ulcers form when tiny injuries to the corneal tissue allow bacteria, viruses, or fungi to enter the cornea and cause infections. Lots of issues can cause the tiny injuries that lead to infection, including:
- Eye trauma
- Dry eye
- Inflammatory diseases
Corneal damage and ulcers are more common among people who wear contact lenses, especially people who wear extended-wear contacts and those who wear expired soft lenses. Other risk factors include:
- Long-term use of steroid eye drops
- Eyelids that turn inward (entropion)
- Eyelashes that grow inward
- Conditions that prevent complete closure of the eyelid
Although these risk factors are associated with an increased risk of developing corneal ulcers, anyone can develop an ulcer, and every ulcer needs immediate medical attention to prevent it from getting worse.
Common symptoms of corneal ulcers
Some of the most common symptoms of corneal ulcers include:
- Eye pain (sharp or dull aching)
- Stinging or burning sensations in the eye
- Pus or other discharge from the eye
- Blurry vision
- Eye redness or “bloodshot” eyes
- Sensations that something is sticking in your eye
- Extra sensitivity to light
- Increased tear production
The ulcer may or may not be visible to you in its early stages. When it is visible, it typically appears as a whitish or grayish spot on the cornea. Over time, pus can form, leading to a yellowish spot behind the cornea.
Not surprisingly, deeper ulcers are associated with more severe symptoms. In some infections, the ulcer may cover the entire cornea. If the infection spreads, you might notice swelling in your eyelid.
Treating corneal ulcers
Corneal ulcers are a medical emergency and require prompt treatment to prevent permanent loss of vision. If you have a corneal ulcer, your treatment will probably include:
- Eye drops to fight the infection
- Eye drops to relieve pain and inflammation
- Oral medications to relieve pain
Eye drops need to be given very frequently, sometimes as often as every hour for several days, in order to stop the spread of the infection. If the infection is severe, you may need a corneal transplant to replace your cornea with a donor cornea.
Eye pain is never normal. If you have pain or other symptoms of a corneal ulcer, call 305-874-0115 or book an appointment online with Advanced Eye Center today.