Corneal Ulcers

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Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh
Dr S.S. Gill

Eye Health

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about CORNEAL ULCERS.

In the previous issue of the Ipoh Echo, Dr Gill talked about corneal abrasions. In this issue, he speaks about corneal ulcers. When a corneal abrasion gets INFECTED, it results in a corneal ulcer formation. Corneal ulcers are serious eye infections that may even result in blindness.

corneal ulcerSYMPTOMS OF CORNEAL ULCER

The affected eye will be red and often painful. The pain may be quite severe as the cornea is a sensitive part of the eye. In most corneal ulcers, there will be a yellow discharge from the affected eye although in some instances, there may only be a mild eye discharge.

Corneal ulcers may often be visible when the affected eye is viewed in the mirror. The affected eye will often have a whitish or yellow spot seen on the clear cornea of the eye (see adjacent pic). You may also have blurred vision but in some cases when the ulcer is not in the centre but at the peripheral of the cornea, there may be no blurred vision.

WHO ARE PREDISPOSED TO CORNEAL ULCERS

Corneal ulcers are basically infections in the clear dome-shaped transparent outermost part of the eye. You can liken this part of the eye to the windscreen of your car. When this clear part gets infected, it is serious because it is an area of the body that does not have blood vessels to bring in the infection fighting white blood cells.

Trauma: A trauma to the cornea of the eye due to a scratch by a foreign body entering the eye is all it takes for ulcers to occur. The moment there is a breach in the cornea, organisms invade the broken epithelium resulting in a corneal ulcer. Disorders that cause dry eyes can leave your eye without the germ-fighting protection of tears and cause ulcers.

Facial Paralysis: Any condition like Bell’s palsy can predispose a patient to corneal ulcers. This is because the patient is not able to close the eyelid completely thus exposing the cornea which become damaged due to dryness. The dry areas of the cornea are more  vulnerable to corneal ulcer formation.

Chemical Injuries: Any injury to the eye by caustic chemicals may severely damage the cornea and increase the risk of corneal ulceration.

Contact Lens Wearers: Those who wear contact lenses have an increased risk of corneal ulcers. This is especially so if the contact lens wearers cut corners and do not adhere to proper cleaning, handling and disinfection of their contact lenses including the contact lens storage case. Additionally, soft contact lenses have a high water content making it easy for bacteria to get absorbed into the contact lens.

Extended-Wear Soft Contact Lenses:

These are contact lenses that are worn for several days without removal at night. Individuals using this type of contact lenses are exposed to a ten-fold risk of corneal ulcer formation. If the lenses are not cleaned properly and there is bacteria underneath the lens, then these bacteria may multiply and get into the cornea should there be a small breach in the corneal surface. This is more so if the contact lenses have tiny scratches at the edges that may cause micro-abrasions and finally end up as corneal ulcers if they get infected.

Should you develop a red eye with discharge and blurring vision, do not ignore it but do seek professional eye treatment promptly.

For more information, call Gill Eye Specialist Centre at Hospital Fatimah (05-545 5582) or email gilleyecentre@dr.com.