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What is keratitis?

Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea. The cornea is the clear layer that covers the front of your eye. Keratitis usually affects one eye, but you can have it in both eyes.

Eye Anatomy

What causes keratitis?

  • Trauma, such as a fingernail scratch or foreign body
  • Wearing contact lenses for longer than recommended
  • Bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites
  • Inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or granulomatosis with polyangiitis

What increases my risk for keratitis?

  • Recent eye surgery
  • Poor nutrition
  • Infection near or around the eye, such as pink eye
  • Weak immune system, or medical conditions such as diabetes

What are the signs and symptoms of keratitis?

  • Red eye
  • Eye pain
  • Feeling that something is in your eye
  • Watery eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swelling of the eyelid

How is keratitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they started. You may also need any of the following:

  • Visual acuity test: Your healthcare provider will check your eye movement and ask you to read an eye chart. This chart helps your healthcare provider check how well you see at different distances.
  • Slit-lamp exam: During this exam, your healthcare provider shines a bright light in your eye to check for inflammation. You may need eyedrops to dilate your pupils. This gives your healthcare provider a better view of the inside of your eye.
  • Tonometry: This test measures your eye pressure. Your eyes are numbed with eyedrops and your healthcare provider touches your eyes with an instrument. Or, a puff of air is blown into your eyes and pressure is measured with a light.
  • Biopsy: Your healthcare provider may send a sample of your cornea to a lab for tests. This will help him plan the best treatment for you.

How is keratitis treated?

  • Infection medicine: You may be given medicine to treat an infection caused by bacteria, a fungus, or a virus. These medicines may be given as eyedrops or as pills.
  • Steroids: This medicine decreases inflammation. It is given as eyedrops.
  • Corneal transplant: You may need surgery if medicines do not work or your cornea is badly damaged. A cornea from a donor is put into your eye to replace your damaged cornea.

What are the risks of keratitis?

You may have long-term inflammation of your cornea. Your symptoms may return. You may develop sores on your cornea. Without treatment, your cornea may scar and tear. You may have a sudden decrease in your vision or lose your vision completely.

How can I help prevent keratitis?

  • Use contact lenses correctly. Know how long to use them and how to clean and store them properly.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Wear safety equipment when you work, garden, or play sports.
  • Do not rub your eyes while you work with wood or metal.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms get worse, even after treatment.
  • You have pus draining from your eye.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have severe eye pain.
  • You have a sudden change in your vision.
  • You suddenly lose your vision.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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

Learn more about Keratitis

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference