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
Types of keratitis
There are several types of keratitis, like:
- Herpes simple viral keratitis, a sexually
transmitted disease in many cases, is the most
- Bacterial keratitis where people wake
up with eyelids stuck. Often caused by overuse
- Fungal keratitis which is more
prevalent in Asia among the rural people, where
the trigger. It usually affects people with
weak immune systems.
- Superficial punctuate keratitis where the
cells on the surface of the cornea die.
keratitis present at birth.
- Traumatic keratitis
resulting from injury and leaves a scar on
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 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 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.
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
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
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.
Experts are agreed that many cases of keratitis
are avoidable by simply taking some elementary
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
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.