Corneal Ulcer

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

View the Eye Diseases and Conditions Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideCommon Eye Problems and Infections

Common Eye Problems and Infections

What is the healing time for a corneal ulcer?

The time until healing depends on the cause of the ulcer and its size, location, and depth. Most appropriately treated corneal ulcers should improve within two to three weeks. Treatment may continue for longer to reduce the amount of potential scarring. Corneal ulceration is a serious condition, and with inadequate or no treatment, loss of vision and blindness may occur.

What is the prognosis of a corneal ulcer?

The prognosis for a corneal ulcer depends on its cause, its size and location, and how rapidly it is treated together with the response to treatment. Although most corneal ulcers will cause some degree of scarring, the scar will often not cause any visual loss. If the ulcer is deep, dense, and central, scarring will cause some permanent changes in vision.

Is it possible to prevent corneal ulcers?

Preventing a corneal ulcer is important. Individuals should wear eye protection when using power tools or when they may be exposed to small particles that can enter the eye, like particles from a grinding wheel or a weed whacker.

Individuals who have dry eyes or whose eyelids do not close completely should use artificial teardrops to keep the eyes lubricated.

If an eye is red and irritated and worsens or does not respond to over-the-counter eyedrops within a day, contact an ophthalmologist promptly.

People wearing contact lenses should be extremely careful about the way they clean and wear those lenses. Corneal ulcers secondary to contact lenses are preventable. Always wash your hands before handling the lenses. Never use saliva to lubricate contact lenses because the mouth contains bacteria that can harm the cornea. Remove lenses from the eyes every evening and carefully clean them. Never use tap water to clean the lenses. Never sleep with contact lenses not designed for overnight wear in the eyes. Store the lenses in disinfecting solutions overnight. Remove lenses whenever the eyes are irritated and leave them out until there is no longer any irritation or redness. Regularly clean the contact lens case. Carefully read the instructions about contact lens care supplied by the lens maker. Consider using daily disposable lenses.

REFERENCES:

Foster, C. Stephen. "Corneal Ulcer Stained With Fluorescein." eMedicine.com. <http://img.medscape.com/pi/emed/ckb/emergency_medicine/756148-780913-783223-1789892.jpg>.

Mills, T. "Corneal ulceration and ulcerative keratitis in emergency medicine clinical presentation." Medscape.com. Nov. 30, 2015. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/798100-clinical#b5>.

Murillo-Lopez, Fernando. "Ulcer, Corneal." Jan. 28, 2010. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1195680-overview>.

Poggio, E.C., R.J. Glynn, and O.D. Schein. "The Incidence of Ulcerative Keratitis Among Users of Daily-Wear and Extended-Wear Soft Contact Lenses." N Engl J Med 321.12 Sept. 21, 1989: 779-783.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/6/2016

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