LASER VISION CORRECTION | OPTICAL DEPARTMENT ....... Charlotte (704) 364-7400 ........Huntersville (704) 895-8200


A corneal ulcer is an inflammatory or infectious condition of the cornea involving disruption of the epithelial layer (surface cells) with involvement of the underlying corneal stroma.  Most corneal ulcers are infectious and are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria than gain access to the cornea usually from a break in the epithelium.  Corneal ulcers are a serious sight-threatening condition and require urgent attention by an ophthalmologist. The eye doctor can diagnose a corneal ulcer by examining the eye with a microscope.  Symptoms of a corneal ulcer include pain, redness, tearing, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and foreign body sensation. Common risk factors for developing corneal ulcers include trauma and wearing contact lenses.  If neglected or not treated, ulcers may result in perforation or hole in the eye resulting in loss of vision and potentially loss of the eye.  Infectious corneal ulcers are usually treated with antibiotic drops that may have to be specially made by a compounding pharmacy.  Treatment with antibiotic drops may take 1-2 weeks or longer depending on the type of microorganism. It is not uncommon after having a corneal ulcer to have a scar at the site of the infection.  Your vision will be affected if the scar is significant or in the middle of the cornea.  A corneal transplant may be need if the loss of vision is severe.  

Sometimes a corneal ulcer will be noninfectious or sterile – meaning it is not caused by a microorganism.  These ulcers are often due to diminished corneal sensitivity and are called neurotrophic.  Sterile ulcers may also result when the eyelid can not be fully closed as a result of paralysis such as Bell’s palsy.  Sterile ulcers can be slow to heal and are often treated with lubrication and patching the eye.  Treatment should not be delayed as these too can potentially progress to perforation.

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