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What is Corneal Ulcer?

A corneal ulcer is an open sore that appears as a grey-to-white region on the cornea, the transparent structure covering the colored part (iris) of your eye. A corneal ulcer can result from bacterial, viral or fungal infections. A corneal tear or scratch caused by trauma, sand particles, and glass or metal pieces make it easier for infections to take place. A corneal ulcer may also occur as a result of certain eye disorders that cause dryness, chemical burns, and the use of contact lenses for extended periods.

Symptoms of Corneal Ulcer

A corneal ulcer can cause severe pain, blurred vision, swollen eyelids, and discharge from the eyes. A visible white spot on the cornea and discomfort while looking at bright light are the other symptoms of a corneal ulcer.


A corneal ulcer can be diagnosed by using a special microscope called a slit lamp. Your eye care specialist will instill fluorescein dye into your eye to view the ulcer. A tissue sample may be withdrawn for laboratory analysis if the ulcer is a result of an infection. Your doctor may also conduct a visual acuity test, and tests for measuring the corneal curve and dryness of the eyes.

Treatment of Corneal Ulcer

Treatment options for corneal ulcers include:

  • Medical management
  • Surgical management

Medical Management

If you wear contact lenses, your doctor will suggest that you discontinue them for some time. Antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed for corneal infections, and tear substitutes for dryness. Special eye drops that dilate the pupils or other medications may be prescribed to relieve pain. In case of severe corneal ulcers, you may need to be hospitalized.

Surgical Management

An emergency corneal transplant may be necessary in cases of failed medical treatment or when there are chances of the ulcer perforating your cornea. A corneal transplant can be performed with a full-thickness transplant or a partial-thickness transplant. For a full-thickness transplant, your doctor will replace the entire cornea with donor tissue, while a partial-thickness transplant involves replacing only a part of the corneal tissue with donor graft tissue. After the surgery, inform your doctor if you experience pain, fever, or discharge from the eyes.