Keratitis is a condition where the cornea—the clear, round dome covering the eye’s iris and pupil—becomes swollen or inflamed, making the eye red and painful and affecting vision. Keratitis is also known as corneal ulcer.
Some forms of keratitis may involve an infection, including bacterial keratitis, viral keratitis, fungal keratitis and parasitic keratitis. Contact lens wearers need to remember that infectious keratitis can result from not caring for your contact lenses properly.
A non-infectious form of keratitis may be caused by a simple fingernail scratch or from wearing your contact lenses too long.
Whatever form of keratitis you may have, it is crucial that you see an ophthalmologist right away. Waiting to have your keratitis diagnosed and treated can lead to serious complications, including blindness.
Keratitis or corneal ulcer signs and symptoms include:
• Red eye;
• Eye pain;
• Tearing and/or discharge from your eye;
• Pain or irritation that makes opening your eyelid difficult;
• Burning, itchy or gritty feeling in your eye;
• Swelling around the eye;
• A feeling that something is in your eye;
• Blurry vision;
• Sensitivity to light (photophobia).
Keratitis or corneal ulcer causes can include:
• Bacterial infection
• Viral infection
• Fungal infection (from plant material in the eye)
• Parasitic infection
• Improper cleaning and/or care for contact lenses
• Wearing contact lenses too long
• Injury (scratch)
• Vitamin A deficiency (rare)
Keratitis or corneal ulcer treatment depends on the type and severity of this corneal problem. Antibacterial or antifungal eye drops may be used to treat corneal infections. Sometimes steroid eye drops may be necessary to reduce the inflammation (swelling) of keratitis.
If the cornea is severely scarred or thinning has occurred, a corneal transplant may be needed to restore vision.
It is important to remember that keratitis must be treated early to reduce the risk of complications, and it is likely that frequent visits to an ophthalmologist may be needed to fully treat this corneal problem.