Keratitis involves infections, irritation and inflammation
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Keratitis refers to a wide variety of infections, irritations and inflammation of the cornea, the domed, transparent front part of the eye ball over the pupil. If not properly treated or left untreated, the affected person may become blind. It affects, by and large, people of all ages.

Keratitis may last for a very short period if the body can fight off the infection, as in many common viral infections, or if it is treatable by antibiotics. Keratitis caused by contact lenses usually has a brief duration. However, keratitis may last for a long time if it is caused by injury or rheumatism. Some kinds of severe keratitis are difficult to treat and may lead to permanent blindness.

Types of keratitis

There are several types of keratitis, like:

  • Herpes simple viral keratitis, a sexually transmitted disease in many cases, is the most common.
  • Bacterial keratitis where people wake up with eyelids stuck. Often caused by overuse of contacts.
  • Fungal keratitis which is more prevalent in Asia among the rural people, where plants provide the trigger. It usually affects people with weak immune systems.
  • Superficial punctuate keratitis where the cells on the surface of the cornea die.
  • Interstitial keratitis present at birth.
  • Traumatic keratitis resulting from injury and leaves a scar on the cornea.

Causes

There are a number of causes for keratitis. Normally it is very difficult for organisms to enter a healthy cornea. It is some existing conditions that allow infections to occur, like an injury to the cornea. Other conditions include viral, bacterial or fungal infections; rheumatism; exposure to ultra-violet light; exposure to very bright light, such as that of welding arcs; continuous use of contact lenses; dry eyes and polluting materials like dust and smoke. Some medicines can also bring about this condition. Lack of vitamin A may also be a cause.

Signs and symptoms

The eyes pain and are excessively watery and bloodshot. There is increased sensitivity to light accompanied by blurred vision and corneal discharge. If the keratitis is caused by the herpex virus then you will notice a white spot on the cornea.

Risk factors

Risk factors associated with keratitis include poor nutrition, which can be compounded by Vitamin-A deficiency; excessive use of contact lenses; poor living conditions and lowered resistance caused by illness. Other viral infections in the body can also increase the chances of keratitis.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis presents some difficulty since the symptoms resemble certain other eye or medical conditions. To avoid mistakes, a thorough examination of the patient’s complete medical history and complete physical examination is done. Cultures, though not essential, are done to obtain confirmation of the diagnosis.

Treatment

Medical treatment is essential. Even a few hours delay can matter. Treatment depends on the cause of the keratitis.

If it is caused by viral infection, then it will resolve on its own with the help of anti-viral eye drops in 2 to 3 weeks time.

If bacterial infection, contact lens or ultraviolet light are the causes, then antibiotic eye drop will be needed.

If dry eyes are the reason then a special formulation that simulates tears is given. If a medicine is the cause then it should be discontinued.

Regularly cleaning the eye with sterile cotton tipped applicator can speed up the healing process. For severe cases, corneal transplants may be necessary.

Important: It is important to treat keratitis before corneal tissue is destroyed and scar tissue is formed. Keratitis is a painful disease but, if the cornea loses its sensitivity as in trauma or surgery, ulcers can develop without accompanying pain.

Most cases show full recovery and many vision impairment cases can be repaired by surgery. Delayed treatment is likely to cause partial or total blindness.

Prevention

Experts are agreed that many cases of keratitis are avoidable by simply taking some elementary precautions.

Needless to say, personal hygiene is very important, especially with children. Hand washing during periods of illness and following toileting is of vital importance as a preventive measure.

People wearing contact lenses should always use sterile disinfecting solutions to clean their lens. Never use tap water. Also try to reduce use of contact lenses by, especially, taking them off during sleep. Remove them at once if the eyes irritate and replace them according to schedule.

Wear protective glasses or goggles wherever the activity situation requires you to. That makes it difficult for offending agents to enter.

Finally have a well-balanced nutritious diet, well fortified with Vitamin A.

 
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