A corneal infection, also called a microbial keratitis or corneal ulcer, occurs when the cornea becomes damaged, either due to bacteria, fungi, virus, parasite or a foreign object. A corneal infection can be very painful and significantly impact your vision. In severe cases, or if it is not properly treated, it can cause blindness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Corneal Infection?
Symptoms can include eye pain, redness, light sensitivity, blurred vision, or excessive tearing.
What Causes Corneal Infection?
Most corneal infections are caused by bacteria. Very often, this occurs after an eye injury, trauma, or sleeping in contact lenses, which can make it easier for bacteria to enter the cornea.
If you wear contact lenses, then you may be at higher risk for infection. A contact that causes irritation, or one not properly cleaned, may introduce bacteria into the eye. Good contact hygiene is very important, Should you get an infection, it can take weeks to get it fully cleared. Sleeping in contact lenses is the number one risk factor for corneal infections, increasing the risk by 15 times.
Fungi and parasites may also cause infections. These infections are more difficult to diagnose and require long duration of treatment lasting several months. An organism called Acanthamoeba is commonly found in swimming pools, hot tubs, freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as tap water. Contact lenses should never be stored or rinsed with tap water due to the risk of infection. The herpes simplex virus can also damage the cornea, as can allergies, immune system disorders, or inflammatory diseases.
How Is A Corneal Infection Treated?
If you suspect that you might have a corneal infection, it is important to get medical help immediately, either with an eye doctor or other medical practitioner. An untreated corneal infection may progress quickly, causing pain and discomfort, and even leading to vision impairment or the loss of the eye.
Your physician will begin treatment with an examination and possibly by taking cultures to determine the type of infection. Bacterial infections can be treated with a number of antimicrobial drugs, including drops and ointments or, in some cases, oral medications. For serious infections you may have to use “fortified antibiotics,” which are made by a compounding pharmacy with high concentrations of antibiotics. Fungal and parasitic infections are usually determined by cultures and are treated with topical and oral medications. Viral infections are treated with variety of topical and oral medications depending on the particular type of viral infection.
A corneal transplant (penetrating keratoplasty) may be required to restore vision. This involves surgery to remove the damaged tissue and replace it with donor tissue from an eye bank.
If you suspect you may have an infection or something else going on with your eyes, please schedule an examination immediately. Our corneal experts will evaluate your condition and develop a custom treatment plan. For an appointment, call (865) 584-0905.