Corneal Ulcer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

A Corneal Ulcer is an open sore that forms in the cornea.

Infection usually causes it. Even minor eye injuries or erosion caused by prolonged contact lens wear can cause infections.

In the front of the eye is a transparent layer of tissue called the cornea. The cornea is like a window that allows light to enter the eye. Tears defend the cornea against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.


The leading cause of corneal ulcers is infection:

Acanthamoeba keratitis: This infection occurs most frequently in contact lens wearers. It is an amoebic infection and, although rare, can lead to blindness.

Herpes simplex keratitis: Herpes simplex keratitis is a viral infection that causes repeated outbreaks of sores or sores in the eye.

Fungal keratitis: This fungal infection develops after a cornea lesion involving a plant or plant material. Fungal keratitis can also develop in people with weakened immune systems.


Other causes of corneal ulcers include:

  • Dry Eye.
  • Eye injury
  • Inflammatory disorders.
  • Use non-sterile contact lenses.

Vitamin A deficiency: People who wear expired soft contact lenses or disposable contact lenses for an extended period (even at night) are at increased risk of developing corneal ulcers.

Symptoms of Corneal Ulcer

You may notice signs of infection before you notice the corneal ulcer. Symptoms of an infection include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eye.
  • Discharge of pus from the eye.
  • Burning or itching sensation in the eye.
  • Red or pink eye
  • Sensitivity to light.

The symptoms and signs of a corneal ulcer include:

  • Ocular inflammation
  • Eye pain.
  • Excessive tear.
  • Blurry vision.
  • White spot on your cornea.
  • Swollen eyelids.
  • I put the ocular discharge.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Feeling that something is in your eye (strange body sensation).

All symptoms of corneal ulcers are severe and should be treated immediately to prevent blindness. A corneal ulcer looks like a gray or white area or spot on the cornea, usually transparent. Some corneal ulcers are too small to be seen without increasing, but you will feel the symptoms.


An ophthalmologist can diagnose corneal ulcers during an eye exam.

A test used to check for a corneal ulcer is a fluorescein stain on the eye. For this test, an eye doctor places a drop of orange dye on a thin piece of blotting paper. Then, the doctor transfers the dye to your eye by lightly touching the blotting paper on the surface of your eye.

Then, the doctor uses a microscope called a slit lamp to shine a special violet light on the eye and look for any damaged areas on the cornea. The corneal damage will look green when the violet light illuminates it.

If you have an ulcer on the cornea, your ophthalmologist will investigate it to find out why. The doctor can numb your eye with eye drops, then gently scrape the ulcer to get a sample for the test. The test will show whether the ulcer contains bacteria, fungi, or viruses.


Once your eye doctor discovers the cause of the corneal ulcer, you can prescribe an antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral eye medication to treat the underlying problem.

If the infection is nasty, your doctor may place it in antibacterial eye drops while examining ulcer scrapes to find its cause. Also, if your eye is inflamed, you may need to use eye drops with corticosteroids.

During treatment, your doctor may ask you to avoid the following:

  • Contact lenses.
  • Makeup.
  • Touch the eye unnecessarily.

In severe cases, the corneal ulcer can justify a corneal transplant. A corneal transplant involves the surgical removal of corneal tissue and its replacement with donor tissue.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a corneal transplant is relatively safe. However, like any surgical procedure, there are risks.

This surgery can cause future health complications such as:

  • Rejection of donor tissue
  • Development of glaucoma (pressure inside the eye).
  • Ocular infection
  • Cataracts (opacity of the lens of the eye).
  • Swelling of the cornea


The best way to prevent corneal ulcers is to seek treatment as soon as you develop any symptoms of an eye infection or as soon as your eye is injured.

Other practical preventive measures include:

  • Avoid sleeping while wearing your contact lenses.
  • Clean and sterilize your contact lenses before and after using them.
  • Rinse the eyes to remove any foreign object.
  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes.


What is the long-term perspective?

Some people may also develop severe vision loss and visual obstruction due to scarring on the retina. Corneal ulcers can also cause permanent scars on the eye. In rare cases, the entire eye can be damaged.

Although corneal ulcers are treatable, and most people recover pretty well after treatment, a reduction in vision may occur.