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Keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea (the clear outer layer of the eye that focuses light).
Keratitis may be mild, moderate, or severe, and can be associated with inflammation of other regions of the eye. It may also involve one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral).1
Some forms of keratitis can be infectious, but are not often transmitted to others.
For example, the herpes simplex (which causes cold sores) and herpes zoster viruses (which causes chickenpox) are highly contagious and often transmitted via skin contact.
After this initial infection, the virus then lives dormant in your body until reactivation, which is when keratitis may develop.
The likelihood of passing herpes keratitis onto someone else is low, but you should still practice good hygiene like washing your hands often. If you have an active cold sore, do not touch your eyes.
However, keratitis caused by non-infectious elements such as eye injury may not be contagious unless an infection develops.
This condition can progress rapidly. If you suspect keratitis or have a problem with your eye, seek immediate medical advice.
Keratitis is divided into two main types:
Also known as microbial keratitis, infectious keratitis is caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites.
Infectious keratitis is a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness worldwide, disproportionately impacting marginalized populations.2
Non-infectious keratitis may result due to the following:
Apart from the cause, keratitis can also be identified based on the appearance or region of the eye affected. These include the following:
Keratitis has many potential causes. The common causes include the following:
The symptoms of keratitis will depend on the type a person is suffering from. However, the symptoms of keratitis include:
If you don't seek medical attention, keratitis symptoms are likely to progress and become worse over time.
It is important to get checked immediately whenever you suspect keratitis. Your eye doctor will discuss your history to determine any symptoms or underlying conditions.
During the diagnosis process, your eye doctor will use a slit lamp to magnify the structures in your eyes to detect any abnormalities.
The eye doctor may also use a penlight to assess your pupil for any unusual changes.
Laboratory analysis may be done to rule out infection and determine the exact cause of your eye keratitis.
Keratitis can heal on its own if it's caused by an eye injury or a non-infectious factor like a weak immune system or extended wear contacts.
However, you may use an antibiotic ointment to prevent the development of an infection during the recovery process.
If keratitis is caused by infectious elements such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites, it may not heal on its own. In this case, you may have to use medications.
Treatment for keratitis depends on the cause.
Common treatment options for keratitis include:
Keratitis is typically easy to treat and resolves quickly. However, if the infection spreads beyond the surface of your cornea, it may leave scars that impair your eyesight or possibly cause blindness.
In addition, not all types of keratitis respond well to treatment. For example, Acanthamoeba keratitis (caused by a parasite) can be difficult to treat and resistant to medications.
Viral medications may also fail to fully eliminate the virus in the case of viral keratitis. Your doctor may need to conduct further eye examination and implement advanced treatment options if the infection persists.
If you get keratitis as a result of an injury, it will usually go away on its own as your eye recovers. However, you may be prescribed an antibiotic ointment to ease pain and prevent infection.
If keratitis is left untreated, it may develop rapidly, resulting in severe eye damage or even vision loss.
If you seek treatment early, you will likely recover quickly from keratitis. However, delayed treatment may lead to serious complications including:
Below are tips to help you prevent development of keratitis:
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