Keratitis is an inflammation of the surface of your eye, the cornea. It is usually the result of an infection, injury or wearing contact lenses for too long. Keratitis can be painful and may temporarily affect vision – only in rare cases will it lead to complications that can damage your sight.
Keratitis has a number of causes, including:
Keratitis can also be the result of a severe allergic reaction or severe dryness caused by the eyelid not shutting completely. There are also cases when the cause of keratitis simply cannot be determined.
There are different forms of keratitis; in the simplest of terms, they can be categorised by where in the cornea the inflammation is located.
By far the most common form is superficial keratitis. This affects only the surface layer of your cornea and is easily treated, and is unlikely to cause long-term damage.
It is only when keratitis affects the stromal layers of your cornea that more serious treatments will be considered.
Although symptoms can be vague, because they often mirror an eye that is simply ‘irritated’, a persistently inflamed and red cornea is a sign of keratitis. Other symptoms include:
Any of the above symptoms should be checked immediately by your GP or optometrist, who will refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary.
There are a number of ways to treat keratitis, depending on the cause. Infectious keratitis can develop rapidly and will require urgent attention. Your eye doctor will typically place you on antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral eye drops or ointments to prevent further infection.
Depending on how severe the infection is, you may be given a prescription eye medication, systemic medication or, in some cases, intravenous therapy.
Although most forms of keratitis can be treated successfully, there are a number of possible complications:
Only in extremely rare cases will keratitis cause permanent loss of vision.
The term keratitis refers specifically to an inflammation of the cornea, yet can be caused by a long list of disorders, diseases or events. Treatment is usually straightforward and you should fully recover from most bouts of keratitis with time – as long as you seek a professional opinion as soon as you are aware of any discomfort. However, the bottom line is, even if the inflammation is minor you still need to visit your GP or optometrist.