Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea — the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the front of your eye that covers the pupil and iris. Keratitis may or may not be associated with an infection. Noninfectious keratitis can be caused by a relatively minor injury, wearing your contact lenses too long or other diseases. Infectious keratitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
If you have eye redness or other symptoms of keratitis, make an appointment to see your doctor. With prompt attention, mild to moderate cases of keratitis can usually be effectively treated without loss of vision. If left untreated, or if an infection is severe, keratitis can lead to serious complications that may permanently damage your vision.
Signs and symptoms of keratitis include:
Excess tears or other discharge from your eye
Difficulty opening your eyelid because of pain or irritation
Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
A feeling that something is in your eye
When to see a doctor
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms of keratitis, make an appointment to see your doctor right away. Delays in diagnosis and treatment of keratitis can lead to serious complications, including blindness
Treatment of noninfectious keratitis varies depending on the cause. However, if your keratitis is caused by a scratch or extended contact lens wear, you may only need a 24-hour eye patch and topical eye medications.
Treatment of infectious keratitis varies, depending on the cause of the infection.
Bacterial keratitis. For mild bacterial keratitis, antibacterial eyedrops may be all you need to effectively treat the infection. If the infection is moderate to severe, you may need to take oral antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Fungal keratitis. Keratitis caused by fungi typically requires antifungal eyedrops and oral antifungal medication.
Viral keratitis. If a virus is causing the infection, antiviral eyedrops and oral antiviral medications may be effective. But these medications may not be able to eliminate the virus completely, and viral keratitis may come back in the future.
Acanthamoeba keratitis. Keratitis that’s caused by the tiny parasite acanthamoeba can be difficult to treat. Antibiotic eyedrops may be helpful, but some acanthamoeba infections are resistant to medication. Severe cases of acanthamoeba keratitis may require a cornea transplant.
If keratitis doesn’t respond to medication, or if it causes permanent damage to the cornea that significantly impairs your vision, your doctor may recommend a cornea transplant.
Caring for your contact lenses
If you wear contact lenses, proper use, cleaning and disinfecting can help prevent keratitis. Follow these tips:
Choose daily wear contacts, and take them out before you go to sleep.
Wash, rinse and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your contacts.
Follow your eye care professional’s instructions for taking care of your lenses.
Use only sterile products that are made specifically for contact-lens care, and use lens-care products made for the type of lenses you wear.
Gently rub the lenses during cleaning to enhance the cleaning performance of the contact lens solutions. Avoid rough handling that might cause your lenses to become scratched.
Replace your contact lenses as recommended.
Replace your contact lens case every three to six months.
Discard the solution in the contact lens case each time you disinfect your lenses. Don’t “top off” the old solution that’s already in the case.
Don’t wear contact lenses when you go swimming.