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Get key facts and figures about chronic dry eye



  • Keratitis (ker-ah-TEYE-tis) is an inflammation (swelling) of the cornea. The cornea is the thin, colorless covering in the front of the eye. It protects the iris (colored part of the eye) and pupil (opening of the eye where light passes). Keratitis may be ulcerative (open sores) or non-ulcerative (no sores), and may lead to loss of vision. It may be caused by germs, such as bacteria and viruses, fungi (yeast-like germs), or parasites (bugs). It may also be due to diseases that cause inflammation or past eye surgery. Eye trauma or eye problems, such as eyelashes growing into the eye, may also put you at risk of having keratitis. Poor contact lens care or having a weak immune system may also increase your risk.
    Picture of a normal eye
  • Common signs and symptoms of keratitis may include eye pain, redness, and tearing. Your vision may be blurred or your cornea may have sores. A detailed health history and a complete eye exam may be needed for diagnosis. Tests, such as a culture and smear exam, and a biopsy, may also be done. Treatment will depend on the cause of your keratitis and how bad the condition is. This may include medicines to treat an infection or surgery to replace the cornea. With treatment, such as medicine, more serious problems of keratitis may be prevented.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Treatment for keratitis may have unpleasant side effects. If medicines are taken by mouth, you may have nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), or diarrhea (loose bowel movement). Left untreated, keratitis may cause more serious problems. Your cornea may scar and tear, which may lead to loss of vision. Your symptoms may get worse very quickly. The success of treating keratitis is best when it is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your disease, treatment, or care.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may have any of the following:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antifungal medicine: This medicine helps kill fungus that can cause illness.
  • Antiparasitic medicine: This medicine may be given to kill parasites. Parasites are living things that feed or eat off of other living things.
  • Antiviral medicine: This is given to prevent or treat an infection caused by a germ called a virus. Antiviral medicine may also be given to control symptoms of a viral infection that cannot be cured.
  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may be given as an eyedrop to decrease inflammation in your eye.


You may need any of the following:

  • Biopsy: This is a procedure where caregivers remove a small piece of tissue from the affected area of the eye. This sample is then sent to the lab for tests. A biopsy helps caregivers look for the cause of your disease.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Culture and smear exam: A sample is scraped from the affected eye and is placed in a special solution. The sample is then checked under the microscope. A culture and smear exam may help caregivers learn what is causing your disease. It may also tell your caregiver which medicine is best used to treat the disease.

Treatment option:

You may need to have surgery if your cornea is badly damaged. A cornea from a donor may be put into your eye to replace the damaged part of your cornea.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Keratitis (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference