DESCRIPTIONA corneal ulcer is an open sore in the thin transparent layers that cover the eye. The parts of the eye involved include the cornea (covering), conjunctiva (white of the eye), iris (colored part of the eye), and aqueous humour (fluid in the eyeball).
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Skillful exams and continuing care from an eye specialist (M.D. ophthalmologist).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSEye pain.
Sensitivity to bright light.
Redness in the white of the eye.
CAUSESInjury to the cornea or the embedding in the cornea of a foreign body, such as a small piece of steel, sand or glass. A bacterial infection--usually pneumococcal, streptococcal, or staphylococcal--may follow the injury.
Complications of the virus, herpes simplex, that produces cold sores on the mouth.
Infections of the eyelids and conjunctiva.
Defective closure of the lid.
All the above infections are contagious from person to person or from one part of the body to another -- especially finger-to-eye contact after touching cold sores on the mouth.
RISK FACTORSRecent infection or eye injury.
Smoking or other environmental eye irritants.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Your child should wash hands frequently.
Your child should avoid injury. Encourage your child to wear safety goggles to protect eyes when exposed to flying wood shavings or splinters, or metal or stone bits.
Urge your child not to touch the eyes if there are cold sores present.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor (ophthalmologist).
Laboratory studies to identify the bacterium, virus, or fungus responsible for the infection and ulcer.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSNeglected corneal ulcers may penetrate the cornea, allowing infection to enter the eyeball. This can cause permanent vision loss.
PROBABLE OUTCOMEA corneal ulcer is a serious eye problem. It is usually curable in 2 to 3 weeks if treated by an ophthalmologist.
If scars from previous corneal ulcers impair your child's vision significantly, a corneal transplant (grafting a new cornea onto the eye) may make vision nearly normal.
HOME CAREApply cool-water compresses to the child's eye as often as they feel good.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops, ointments, or oral antibiotics for bacterial infections. Your doctor will administer medication for viral and fungus infections.
For minor pain, use non-prescription drugs such as acetaminophen.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
After treatment, your child can resume normal activity as soon as possible.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, when eye specialist suggests.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of a corneal ulcer.
The following occurs during treatment:
-- Fever over 101F (38.3C).
-- Pain that is not relieved by acetaminophen.
-- Changed vision.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.