What Are Corneal Ulcers and How Are They Treated?

The eye is a delicate and complex organ that requires proper care and attention to maintain healthy vision. One potentially serious condition that can affect the eye is a corneal ulcer.

Corneal ulcers can cause significant pain, discomfort, and vision problems if left untreated. Keep reading to learn more about corneal ulcers, including what they are and what treatment options are available to help the eye heal and prevent long-term damage!

What are Corneal Ulcers? 

A corneal ulcer is an open sore or defect on the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. The cornea plays a crucial role in focusing light and protecting the eye from dirt, germs, and other harmful substances. 

When the cornea becomes damaged or inflamed, it can develop an ulcer, which appears as a gray or white area on the usually transparent cornea. Corneal ulcers can be superficial, affecting only the outermost layer of the cornea, or they can extend deeper into the corneal tissue. 

If left untreated, corneal ulcers can lead to severe complications, including scarring, perforation of the cornea, and even permanent vision loss.

What Causes a Corneal Ulcer?

Corneal ulcers can develop due to various factors, including:

  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
  • Eye injuries, such as scratches or abrasions
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Prolonged wear or improper use of contact lenses
  • Exposure to chemical irritants or toxic substances
  • Eyelid disorders that prevent proper blinking and moisture distribution

A corneal ulcer can often develop due to a combination of factors working together. For example, someone who suffers from dry eye syndrome and wears contact lenses may have a higher risk of getting an ulcer. 

This is because their eyes are already more vulnerable, and if their contact lenses become contaminated with bacteria, it can lead to an infection that results in a corneal ulcer.

What Are the Symptoms of a Corneal Ulcer?

The symptoms of a corneal ulcer can vary depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Eye pain or discomfort, which may be severe
  • Redness and inflammation of the eye
  • Blurred or decreased vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing or discharge from the eye
  • A feeling of grittiness or a foreign body sensation in the eye
  • A visible white or gray spot on the cornea

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit your eye doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the ulcer from worsening and reduce the risk of complications.

What Are The Treatments For Corneal Ulcers?

The treatment for corneal ulcers depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. In most cases, treatment aims to eliminate the infection, reduce inflammation, and promote healing of the cornea. 

Some treatment options include:


If the ulcer is caused by a bacterial infection, your eye doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments to clear the infection. 

Antiviral or Antifungal Medications

If the ulcer is caused by a viral or fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe antiviral or antifungal medications to target the specific pathogen.


In some cases, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid eye drops to reduce inflammation and prevent scarring. However, these medications are used cautiously, as they can worsen certain types of infections.

Bandage Contact Lens

A special soft contact lens may be used to protect the cornea and promote healing.

Corneal Transplant Surgery

In more serious situations, when the ulcer is at risk of causing an opening in the cornea, surgery may be needed to stop the condition from worsening and to help preserve vision.

In addition to medical treatment, your eye doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help prevent future corneal ulcers. These may include practicing good hygiene with contact lenses, protecting your eyes from injury, and managing underlying health conditions that increase your risk of developing ulcers.

Are you experiencing symptoms of corneal ulcers? Schedule an appointment at Mid Ohio Eye in Columbus, OH, today!