Fungal keratitis is a potentially blinding infection of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped part that covers the colored part of the eye and focuses light into your eye. Also known as fungal corneal ulcer, this eye condition can develop quickly from an eye injury or exposure to certain fungi. If left untreated, fungal keratitis can cause permanent vision impairment or blindness.
Causes of Fungal Keratitis
There are many different fungi that cause fungal keratitis, including:
Fusarium and Aspergillus are typically found in soil, plants, and water. Candida lives on human skin and mucous membrane, such as the lining of the nose, eyes, and mouth. Fungal keratitis is most common in warmer climates and cannot be spread from person to person.
Fungal keratitis can happen after an eye injury involving soil or plant material like a palm branch. Individuals with a weak immune system or underlying eye disease can also get this eye condition if they come in contact with the fungus. Improper use and care of contact lenses also increase the risk of developing fungal keratitis.
Alteration of the corneal surface results in easy invasion of fungi deeper into the underlying layers, which leads to an immune-mediated inflammation. Inflammation of the cornea results in the death of surrounding tissue, leading to opacification and scarring of the cornea.
Symptoms of Fungal Keratitis
Fungal keratitis is characterized by:
- Pain the eye
- Reduced vision
- Increased light sensitivity
- Excessive discharge or tearing from your eye
- Foreign body sensation
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your ophthalmologist right away to start treatment and prevent possible blindness. This is especially important if the symptoms come on suddenly.
Fungal Keratitis Diagnosis and Treatment
Your ophthalmologist will examine your eye and may gently scrape the cornea for a small sample of material. The sample will be tested for infection. A test will help diagnose whether you have fungal keratitis or bacterial keratitis.
Fungal keratitis is usually treated with prescription antifungal eye drops and oral medications for several months. Surgical intervention, including corneal transplantation, may be an option if the medicines are not effective or you have a severe fungal infection. In some cases, however, corneal surgery may not restore vision. Blindness or permanent vision impairment may occur in such cases. This is why it’s so important to get medical attention at the first sign of eye infection.
Fungal Keratitis Prevention
The best way to prevent fungal keratitis is to wear protective eyewear when performing activities that increase the risk for infection, such as agricultural work. Disinfection and proper care of contact lenses will help keep your eyes healthy.
Our eyes are extremely delicate and should be treated with utmost care. Contact us to learn more about eye care or to book an appointment.