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Bacterial KeratitisWhat is bacterial keratitis?

Bacterial keratitis is a serious infection of the cornea.  It can also be referred to as a corneal ulcer.

What are the symptoms of bacterial keratitis?

The most common symptoms include redness, pain, tearing, discharge, and sensitivity to light.  Keratitis commonly causes blurred vision as well.  Sometimes patients can see a white spot on their eye.

What causes bacterial keratitis?

The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are the three most common causes for this type of infection in the United States.  Corneal ulcers are associated with over-wearing contact lenses, poorly-fitting contact lenses, improper cleaning of contact lenses, swimming with contact lenses, blepharitis, and eye trauma.

How is bacterial keratitis treated?

Bacterial keratitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops.  Your doctor will determine how often you need to use these eye drops depending on how severe the infection is.  Sometimes dilating eye drops or steroid eye drops will be prescribed as well.  For more severe infections, orally-administered antibiotics (pills) may be part of the treatment.  Contact lenses should never be worn while a person has bacterial keratitis.  Most patients will need to be seen several times by the doctor to ensure proper treatment and healing.  Only rarely is a corneal transplant is needed.

What if it is not treated?

If left untreated, bacterial keratitis may result in permanent loss of vision.  The good news is that bacterial keratitis usually responds well to treatment, if treated in a timely matter.

How can I decrease the risk of recurrent episodes of bacterial keratitis?

The best ways to decrease your risk of having a corneal ulcer are to take proper care of your contact lenses, wash your hands frequently, and to avoid wearing contact lenses longer than is recommended.  It is also very important to never sleep in your contact lenses and to have a complete eye exam each year.  Never use contact lenses without a prescription from your eye doctor.  In some rare cases, your doctor may recommend not wearing contact lenses any longer.  For those patients that have frequent corneal ulcers, daily disposable contact lenses may be a more hygienic option.  It is important for all contact lens wearers to have an updated pair of back-up glasses to wear if they are not able to use their contact lenses.

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