The cornea is the eye’s clear, dome-shaped layer on the front of the eye. Normally, a healthy cornea can resist
infection very effectively. However, the cornea may be damaged by injury such as a poke in the eye or it may become
inflamed through infection. Unlike most tissues, the cornea contains no blood vessels to shield it from infection.
A corneal infection, or keratitis, occurs when the cornea is damaged by a foreign object, or from bacteria or fungi
(often from a contaminated contact lens). This can cause painful inflammation and can lead to corneal scarring.
In the most serious cases, keratitis can cause blindness.
Not all types of keratitis are infectious. Non-infectious keratitis can result from:
* Eye injury from a scratch or foreign object
* Allergic reaction to deposits on the lenses
* Chemicals, including those in contact lens solution
* Dryness of the eyes
Warning Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of a corneal infection can include:
* An itchy/burning feeling in your eye
* Painful sensitivity to light
* Decreased vision
* Eye discharge
You may even develop a white spot where the infection is located that is actually visible. If you wear contacts and your
eye is red and irritated, you may have infectious keratitis. The deeper the infection, the more painful the symptoms will be.
It is important to call your eye specialist immediately if you wear contacts and have any of these symptoms.
Treatment and Procedures
A specialised optical microscope can be used to determine the location, depth and severity of the corneal infection.
Sometimes, your eye specialist will culture the infection to identify the type of organism that is causing the keratitis.
Minor infections are usually treated with prescription anti-bacterial drops. More severe infections need stronger antibiotics or
anti-fungal treatment to clear up infections, as well as steroid drops for inflammation. Sometimes, corneal infections take multiple treatments to cure and frequent visits to the eye specialist are necessary. If corneal scarring occurs, it can lead to loss of vision and, possibly, blindness. In the case of a corneal scar, a corneal transplant may be required.
Contact lens wearers are at higher risk of corneal infections, so proper contact lens care is important. Avoid sleeping in
contact lenses or over-wearing contact lenses. Dispose of soft contacts as directed by your optometrist. Also use protective
eyewear during activities that could accidentally throw particles or other foreign bodies into the eye. Individuals who are very active
or play sports should be especially cautious to avoid eye injury that could cause noninfectious keratitis.
Remember that regular comprehensive eye exams are important for good eye health, even if you do not detect any changes
or problems in your vision. The best way to keep your eyes free from disease is to schedule comprehensive eye exams every
one to two years, according to your optometrist / eye specialist's recommendations.