What Can Cause a White Spot on Your Eye?

Medically Reviewed on 12/6/2022
Causes of White Spots on the Eye
A corneal ulcer that is left untreated can cause vision loss and, perhaps, blindness.

Eye spots can be white, brown, or red. These spots occur on the eye and not on your eyelid or the skin surrounding your eyes.

White spots on your eye can result from a few disorders, such as:

What is a corneal ulcer?

A corneal ulcer is an open sore on your cornea. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped tissue layer that covers the front of your eye, which protects your eyes and prevents pollutants and pathogens from entering the remaining portion of the eye. It's also essential for maintaining focus in your eyes.

Infection is the most common cause of a corneal ulcer. A corneal ulcer is a significant medical condition that must be treated immediately. Ulcers on the cornea are common and can affect people of any age. The severity of corneal ulcers varies depending on the etiology. 

  • In the United States, wearing contact lenses is a common contributing factor.
  • Vitamin A insufficiency is common in developing countries.

Corneal infections and ulcers are the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in these countries. In the United States, these problems are much less frequent.

What causes a corneal ulcer?

People often get corneal ulcers after corneal damage, allowing bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites to invade the cornea. If left untreated, the infection and inflammation caused by this invasion worsen.

The following infections can result in a corneal ulcer:

  • Bacterial: People who wear contact lenses are more likely to get corneal ulcers, particularly if they wear the extended-wear lens for several days or even weeks.
  • Viral: Herpes simplex virus keratitis is a serious viral infection. Stress, sun exposure, or other factors that suppress the immune system may lead to recurrent episodes.
  • Fungal: Fungus can result in keratitis after plant-related corneal damage. People with a suppressed immune system may also experience it.
  • Parasitic: The tiny, one-celled Acanthamoeba is the most prevalent amoeba found in soil and freshwater. This parasite can seriously infect the eyes, especially in people who wear contact lenses, resulting in a corneal ulcer.
  • Vitamin A deficiency: A lack of vitamin A causes the cornea to dry. It also encourages the development of new eye tissue. Most people in developed nations get enough vitamin A. However, some people with digestive problems or special diets might not. In developing countries, vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of infantile blindness.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Several autoimmune illnesses can cause peripheral ulcerative keratitis (PUK), which causes a corneal ulcer. Autoimmune disorders associated with PUK include rheumatoid arthritis, Wegener granulomatosis, recurrent polychondritis, polyarteritis nodosa, Churg-Strauss syndrome, and microscopic polyangiitis.
  • Eyelid problems: Dry eye conditions, which can result in corneal ulcers, can be caused by disorders that prevent your eyelids from fully closing. The list of ailments includes Grave's disease, Bell's palsy, and other thyroid issues. Trichiasis (ingrown eyelashes), blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), and entropion (an eyelid that is turned inward) are other eyelid or eyelash issues that can result in corneal ulcers.
  • Severe dryness: In this circumstance, your tears—the "windshield washers" of your eyes—cannot effectively clean and lubricate them. Without tears, debris can stay in your eye and scrape it, leading to infection. 
  • Corneal burns: Some pollutants that are present at home or work have the potential to damage the cornea of your eye.
  • Eye abrasions: Cuts, scrapes, or scratches to the eye can spread bacteria. Eye abrasions can result from a fingernail scratch, a piece of dirt in your eye, something rubbing against your eye, or other incidents.


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What are the symptoms of a corneal ulcer?

A corneal ulcer may cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A white spot on your cornea
  • Terrible eye discomfort
  • The impression that there is something in your eye
  • Tearing
  • Eye sludge
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Distorted vision
  • A reddened eye
  • Enlarged eyelids
  • Pus or eye discharge
  • Itching

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's critical to seek treatment right away. Once the corneal ulcer has been treated and cured, most of them should go away. A corneal ulcer that is left untreated can cause vision loss and, perhaps, blindness.

What is the treatment of corneal ulcers?

Treatment of corneal infections and ulcers depends on the underlying reason. To avoid corneal scarring, treatment should be started as soon as feasible. If the precise cause is unknown, you might be given antibiotic drops that fight many bacteria.

Once the exact reason has been determined, you may be given drops to treat bacteria, herpes, other viruses, or fungi. Sometimes, a corneal transplant is necessary for severe ulcers. In some circumstances, corticosteroid eye drops may relieve swelling and irritation.

Medically Reviewed on 12/6/2022
Image Source: iStock image