People at risk for corneal ulcers include:
- contact lens wearers
- people who have or have had cold sores, chicken pox or shingles
- people who use steroid eye drops
- people with dry eye
- people with eyelid disorders that prevent proper functioning of the eyelid
- people who injure or burn their cornea
If you wear contact lenses, safe handling, storage and cleaning of your lenses are key steps to reduce your risk of a corneal ulcer. It is important to learn how to take care of your contact lenses.
Corneal ulcer causes
You can prevent many causes of corneal ulcers. Use the correct protective eyewear when doing any work or play that can lead to eye injury. And if you wear contact lenses, it is important to care for your contact lenses correctly.
Corneal ulcers are usually caused by the following types of infections:
Bacterial infections. These are common in contact lens wearers, especially in people using extended-wear lenses.
Viral infections. The virus that causes cold sores (the herpes simplex virus) may cause recurring attacks. These attacks are triggered by stress, an impaired immune system, or exposure to sunlight. Also, the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles (the varicella virus) can cause corneal ulcers.
Fungal infections. Improper use of contact lenses or steroid eye drops can lead to fungal infections, which in turn can cause corneal ulcers. Also, a corneal injury that results in plant material getting into the eye can lead to fungal keratitis.
Parasitic (Acanthamoeba) infections. Acanthamoeba are microscopic, single-celled amoeba that can cause human infection. They are the most common amoebae in fresh water and soil. When Acanthamoeba enters the eye it can cause a bad infection, particularly for contact lens users.
Other causes of corneal ulcers include:
Abrasions or burns to the cornea caused by injury to the eye. Scratches, scrapes and cuts can become infected by bacteria and lead to corneal ulcers. These injuries can happen from fingernail scratches, paper cuts, makeup brushes and tree branches. Burns caused by corrosive chemicals found in the workplace and at home can cause corneal ulcers.
Dry eye syndrome.
Bell’s palsy and other eyelid disorders that prevent proper eyelid function. If the eyelid does not function properly, the cornea can dry out, and an ulcer can develop.