The clear structure at the front of the eye is termed as the cornea. It acts like a window that allows the entrance of light and serves as a barrier against bacteria, germs and other things that can damage the eye. A corneal ulcer is an open sore that forms on the cornea. It is usually caused by infections, eye injuries, or contact lens abrasions. 


A corneal ulcer is characterized by an underlying inflammation and infection. Eye infections are a common cause for corneal ulcers, and thereby, it is important to treat the infection to prevent a corneal ulcer. The symptoms can be similar to those of eye allergies, however, it is vital to visit an eye specialist to have the signs diagnosed the right way. 

The common symptoms of an infection include:

  • Itchy eye
  • Watery eye
  • Pus-like substance discharged from the eye
  • Burning sensation
  • Red or pink-colored eye
  • Light sensitivity 

The symptoms of a corneal ulcer include:

  • Eye Inflammation
  • Sore eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Blurred vision
  • White spot on the cornea
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Pus discharge
  • Light sensitivity

Corneal ulcers are damaging and require immediate treatment to prevent permanent blindness. It appears like a gray or white spot on the otherwise transparent cornea. 


A corneal ulcer can be diagnosed during an eye exam. The fluorescein eye stain is a common test used for the detection of corneal ulcers. During this test, the eye specialist places a drop of orange dye onto a thin piece of blotting paper, and then transfers the dye to the eye by dabbing the blotting paper to the surface of the eye. 

The next step involves using a microscope called a slit-lamp. This microscope emits a special violet light onto your eye to examine whether there are any damages to the cornea. 

If corneal ulcers are detected, the doctor will use eye drops to numb the eyes and then gently scrape the ulcer to get a sample for testing. This test will determine if the ulcer is caused by bacteria, fungi, or a virus.

Causes and Treatment

There are different causes for corneal ulcers; the eye doctor has to first identify the cause and then proceed with treatment. If the ulcer is caused as a result of infection, anti-infective agents are used to counter it. These anti-infective agents are available in the form of eye drops and ointments to eradicate the microbial agents. 

Dry eye is another common cause for corneal ulcer, and is a condition where the tears are not able to provide lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Here, the ophthalmologist will firstly use tear substitutes and then use a bandage contact lens to prevent the mechanical rubbing of eyelids.

Corneal ulcers can also be caused due to the entry of foreign particles into the eye. In these cases, a slit lamp microscope can be used to remove the foreign substances. After the slit lamp examination, your eye doctor will apply medicines such as ciprofloxacin and prednisone, to prevent infection and scarring of the cornea.

If the corneal ulcer cannot be treated with medicines, the ophthalmologist will have to conduct surgical interventions to relieve the symptoms. Keratoplasty is a common surgical treatment in which a part of the cornea is replaced with corneal tissue from a donor. This treatment can reduce pain, restore vision and improve the appearance of the diseased cornea.

Make sure to consult with an ophthalmologist as soon as signs and symptoms are detected. Corneal ulcers have to be treated promptly because the progression of the disease can cause permanent blindness. 

Corneal ulcers can seriously impact the health of your eyes and inhibit vision. It is commonly misinterpreted as a simple eye infection but needs the attention of a medical professional. Make sure to consult with an eye specialist when in doubt. Early detection will simplify the treatment procedure and prevent other distressing symptoms. Contact our staff at the Ebsaar Eye Surgery Center to book an appointment with our expert ophthalmologists.