A corneal ulcer is an open sore or epithelial defect with underlying inflammation on the cornea, the clear structure in the front of the eye. The cornea overlies the iris, which is the coloured part of the eye.
It will often appear as a grey to white opaque or translucent area on the normally transparent cornea. Some corneal ulcers may be too small to see without adequate magnification and illumination.
There are a wide variety of causes of corneal ulcers, including infection, physical and chemical trauma, corneal drying and exposure, and contact lens overwear and misuse.
Contact lens wearers are at particular risk and utmost care must be taken to follow good contact lens hygiene when inserting, removing and storing contact lenses. Unless specifically recommended by your ophthalmologist, never ever sleep with contact lenses in your eye.
Corneal ulcers may result in loss of vision or blindness, but most are preventable: With appropriate and timely treatment, the majority of corneal ulcers will improve with minimal adverse effect on vision.
Patients with a sight-threatening infection of the cornea can suffer:
- Severe pain (not in all cases)
- White spot on the cornea
- Reduced visual acuity
- Light sensitivity
- Red eye