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Know the basics

What is keratitis?

Keratitis is a condition that affects your cornea. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the front of your eye covering the pupil and iris. The cornea is the window in the front of your eye, responsible for bending light rays as a result of its curved shape. In keratitis, the cornea has an inflammation. When you have an inflammation of the cornea for some reasons, it will affect your vision.

How common is keratitis?

This health condition is common. It commonly affects more males than females (65-71% of patients are male). It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information. While treatable, this condition is the most common cause of corneal blindness.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of keratitis?

The most common symptom of keratitis is pain. The pain may be mild to severe, depending on the cause and extent of the inflammation. If the cornea has extensive keratitis, the normally clear cornea may look gray or have white to gray areas.

The common signs and symptoms of keratitis are:

  • Eye redness;
  • Eye pain;
  • Excess tears or other discharge from your eye;
  • Difficulty opening your eyelid due to pain or irritation;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Decreased vision;
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia).

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation. Delays in diagnosis and treatment of keratitis can lead to serious complications, including vision loss.

Know the causes

What causes keratitis?

Injury is one of the cause of you keratitis. If a hard object falls into your eye and scratch or penetrate the cornea, you can get keratitis. This can cause no infection. When the surface of the cornea is damaged, bacteria or fungi can infect the cornea, causing infectious keratitis.

People who wear contact lenses are at higher risk of this condition. Contaminated contact lenses contributes to a large number of keratitis cases. When the contact lenses are contaminated, bacteria, fungi or parasites may inhabit their surface and spread to the lenses casing. If you do not have a proper contact lenses hygiene, the bacteria from the lenses can get to your eyes and cause keratitis.

If you have contacted with contaminated water, you can have keratitis as well. Some chemicals in water can make the cornea’s delicate surface tissue become  irritated and weakened, which leads to a chemical keratitis. This is usually short-lived and may last only minutes to hours. However, irritation by chemicals are short-lived ad can be resolved by cleansing your eyes. If the water is infected with bacteria, fungi and parasites, they can penetrate your eyes when you’re swimming and result in keratitis.

Another cause of your keratitis is viruses, such as the herpes viruses and the virus that causes chlamydia, may cause keratitis.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for keratitis?

There are many risk factors for keratitis, such as:

  • Wearing contact lenses;
  • Reduced immunity;
  • Warm climate;
  • Using corticosteroid eye-drop;
  • A past eye injury.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is keratitis diagnosed?

Based on your medical history and your symptoms, your doctor will conduct some tests to diagnose your condition.

The first thing is that you need to have an eye exam. Although the eye exam might not be comfortable, this can help your doctor examine your eye. The goal of this exam is to check your ability of seeing well by using standard eye charts.

Another test you can have is penlight exam. With a penlight, your doctor can know your pupil’s reaction, size and other factors. If your cornea appear greyish and not clear, your doctor will examine the extent and character of surface irregularities or ulcers of the cornea.

In some cases, slit lamp exam is necessary. In this test, your eyes can be examined with a special instrument called a slit lamp, which provides a bright source of light and magnification. With the help of the light, your doctor can see well these structures with high magnification to detect the character and extent of keratitis, as well as the effect it may have on other structures of the eye.

If needed, a sample of tears or some cells from your cornea can be taken for laboratory analysis to identify the cause of keratitis and to help develop a treatment plan for your condition.

How is keratitis treated?

If you are diagnosed with noninfectious keratitis, the cause of your condition decides your treatment. Treatment may not be required if the cause is a scratch or extended contact lens wear. In case you are having significant tearing and pain, applying prescription medicine to the eyes and wearing an eye patch until your condition improves is the best choice.

If you are diagnoses with infectious keratitis, treatment varies based on the cause of the infection. If you bacterial keratitis is mild, the treatment are antibacterial eye-drops and  oral antibiotics if your condition is moderate to severe. When you have fungal keratitis, you need to use antifungal eye-drops and oral antifungal medication. Antiviral eye-drops  and oral antiviral medications may be effective in case of you have viral keratitis. If a virus is causing the infection, antiviral eye-drops and oral antiviral medications may be effective. If your keratitis is caused by the tiny parasite acanthamoeba, it is more difficult to treat. Antibiotic eye-drops may be helpful, but some acanthamoeba infections are resistant to medication.

A cornea transplant is recommended if medication can’t help, or if it causes permanent damage to the cornea that significantly impairs your vision.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage keratitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with keratitis:

  • You shouldn’t apply corticosteroid eye-drops without prescription by a specialist knowledgeable about viral keratitis and the need for careful monitoring;
  • You should discontinue your use of contact lenses;
  • You have to follow your eye care professional’s instructions for taking care of your lenses;
  • You should use only sterile products that are made specifically for contact lens care.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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