What is a corneal ulcer? Is it an eye emergency?

Corneal ulcer is a vision threatening eye emergency, and you must see an eye doctor immediately, for smaller peripheral corneal ulcers in a non-contact-lens wearer can be referred semi-urgently.

What is a corneal ulcer? Is it an eye emergency? in Bellflower

What is a corneal ulcer?

A corneal ulcer is a wound that appears on the surface of your cornea caused primarily by infection, but not necessarily. Your cornea is the front part of the eye. It helps keep the rest of the eye clean and free of germs. An ulcer can also form on your cornea if you have an injury to your cornea. Anyone can develop a corneal ulcer, regardless of age. The severity of corneal ulcers can vary depending on their cause. Use of contact lenses is the leading cause of corneal ulcers in the United States. 

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimates that in the United States alone 30,000 to 75,000 cases of corneal ulcers occur each year, and about 12.2% of corneal transplants are performed to treat infectious keratitis.

Amplify Eyecare of Greater Long Beach

Is a corneal ulcer an eye emergency?

A corneal ulcer is an eye emergency that should be treated as soon as possible because it can lead to vision loss. Therefore, you should see our optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as you start exhibiting symptoms. Call our eye doctor right away at (562) 925-6591 if you:

  • Have persistent discharge from the eye
  • Develop blurry vision suddenly
  • Have eye pain and redness that persist for 3 days
  • Have a white mark on the cornea and a red eye

What are the symptoms of a corneal ulcer?

Corneal ulcers are characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Eye pain and soreness
  • Reduced visual acuity
  • A feeling of something in your eye
  • Pus or other discharge
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Red, teary, bloodshot eye
  • Corneal ulcers only occur in one eye
  • White mark on your cornea you might or might not be able to see when you look in the mirror
What are the symptoms of a corneal ulcer?
What causes a corneal ulcer?

What causes a corneal ulcer?

There are many causes of corneal ulcers, including bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infections.

Acanthamoeba keratitis
Acanthamoeba keratitis occurs in people who wear contact lenses. Use of contact lenses is the leading cause of corneal ulcers in the United States. The risk of it occurring is higher among those who make their own cleaning solutions, clean their contact lenses with tap water, or swim with contact lenses, especially in freshwater lakes and rivers.

Fungal keratitis
Fungal keratitis can result from corneal injuries involving fungus-contaminated plant material, for example getting hit in the eye with a tree or plant. Additionally, people with suppressed immune systems and in some cases contact lens wearers who are not careful about proper maintenance may suffer from fungal keratitis.

Herpes simplex keratitis
Another type of corneal ulcer is herpes simplex keratitis, a serious viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). Type I is the type of herpes virus that is known to cause eye infections. This virus is highly contagious and is usually spread through skin contact. This is also very common in the United States.

What causes a corneal ulcer?

Diagnosis of a corneal ulcer

  • In the case of suspected fungal infections or Acanthamoeba, confocal microscopy may assist in the diagnosis.
  • Culture of a corneal infection must be done to determine the exact cause of infection so that an accurate diagnosis is made prior to treatment. 
  • Corneal topography can be performed to determine whether a patient has fungal keratitis.
  • If the corneal ulcer is acute and superficial, fluorescein stain testing may only be necessary.
  • Detailed imaging using anterior segment Ocular Coherence Tomography (AS OCT) is  an important tool in the evaluation and management of corneal ulcers, providing a detailed evaluation in a non-contact and safe way.

Who is at risk of a corneal ulcer?

  • Agricultural workers may be more likely to develop fungal keratitis due to soil and plant exposure
  • Sleeping in contact lenses or having poor contact lens hygiene puts contact lens wearers at higher risk of Pseudomonas Keratitis.
  • Those who wear contact lenses in freshwater or wash them with water rather than contact lens solution are at risk for Acanthamoeba keratitis.
  • Those with a cold sore, chicken pox, or shingles
  • Patients with dry eye syndrome who use steroid eye drops
  • Those whose eyelids do not function normally
  • Diabetics or immunosuppressed patients are more prone to corneal ulcers. An endocrinologist should be consulted if the sugar levels are out of control since this can interfere with corneal wound healing.

Prevention of a corneal ulcer

  • A corneal ulcer is most commonly caused by poor cleaning and handling of contact lenses. You must therefore use, disinfect, and store your contact lenses properly.
  • You must always avoid wearing contact lenses while showering, swimming, or performing any activity that may cause your eyes to become wet.
  • You should also avoid wearing contact lenses for long periods of time. When you get home from work, you can take out your contact lenses and switch to eyeglasses.
  • An eye injury can lead to corneal ulcer. Therefore, it is advised to wear protective glasses if you are a construction worker, plumber, welder or an electrician.
  • Keep eye makeup to a minimum because it can clog your eyes and cause infection.
  • To reduce the risk of corneal ulcers, you should never share makeup, towels, or eye drops with anyone.
What are the symptoms of a corneal ulcer?
What causes a corneal ulcer?

Treatment of a corneal ulcer

Treatment of corneal ulcer depends on the cause of the infection, which will be determined through a culture test of your cornea.

If the corneal ulcer is not severe and is not a threat to your vision, antibiotic drops such as fluoroquinolones (moxifloxacin, besifloxacin, gatifloxacin) and bacitracin or erythromycin may be prescribed. It has now been shown in multiple studies that fluoroquinolones are effective in treating bacterial keratitis.

Culture testing of the cornea is recommended for corneal ulcers that are large and causing severe symptoms. The reason that this is important is that common ocular pathogens are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics. Another reason is to determine the right antibiotic to treat your specific infection. Additionally, it should be done before the treatment begins.
After the infection has cleared, depending on how severe your infection was, our eye doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory eye drop or steroid eye drop to reduce inflammation and decrease corneal scarring.

Amniotic membrane
Surgery may be required for patients who are not responsive to medication. An amniotic membrane graft may be applied under sterile conditions to promote healing. In cases of severe scarring, a corneal transplant may be performed to replace diseased corneal tissue with healthy tissue from a donor.

Bandage contact lenses
Bandage contact lenses can be an effective way at treating corneal ulcers by both protecting the wound and enabling healing.

Dr. Ikeda cartoon

Visit Amplify EyeCare of Greater Long Beach for an emergency eye exam

A corneal ulcer is a wound that appears on the surface of your cornea caused primarily by infection, but not necessarily. An ulcer can also form on your cornea if you have an injury to your cornea. Anyone can develop a corneal ulcer, regardless of age, however contact lens wear is the primary cause of corneal ulcers in the US. The severity of corneal ulcers can vary depending on their cause. A corneal ulcer is an eye emergency that should be treated as soon as possible because it can lead to vision loss. Because of the potential for a corneal ulcer to lead to vision loss, you should see our optometrist at Amplify EyeCare of Greater Long Beach as soon as you start exhibiting symptoms. Patients searching for advanced medical eye care visit our clinic from all over California, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Bellflower, Long Beach, Lakewood, and Los Angeles.

Related Articles


I haven't actually used the optometrist side, so my review is limited to the vision therapy offered.  This office was recommended by my occupational therapist for the treatment of my double vision following a stroke.

Claire A.

Love this location. I had a brain injury accident from day one one. All the team make you feel you still important and hope in the horizon after when the medical system fell you miserably. Dr. Ikeda very professional and very understanding about your issue. Two tombs up.

Jim K.

My husband and I were immediately impressed with Dr Ikeda. I was hit by a car while cycling which caused broken bones and three brain injuries. The brain injuries caused double vision. Dr. Ikeda examined my eyes and got me started on vision therapy with his occupational therapist who specializes in vision therapy.  She (Chris) is absolutely great.  I am impressed with the array of tools used to help recover my binocular vision.  I am doing things I never thought were possible (balance boards etc).  Chris pushes me and keeps me motivated. I really enjoy my sessions with her.  The office staff is always friendly and they have a wonderful appointment reminder tool that makes it easy to keep my calendar up to date. I am happy the rehab center at Little Co. of Mary recommended them!!

Teresa S.

The Vision Therapy is handled in a separate office through a different door from the shared waiting room. Chris, the vision therapist, has a wide and varied assortment of tools, equipment and resources to best evaluate and treat most vision issues. After just a few visits, my double vision became easier to control, using exercises developed during the therapy process. It was time well-spent.

Joe M.

I have been coming here since I can remember. I love it here. The staff is so amazing and nice. They explain everything they gonna do and never make you feel rushed. Dr. Ikeda has always been my doctor and I would never want another one. He is the doctor for my whole family and is always asking how everyone is doing. I am also so crazy about picking out my frames and have to try so many and each person who helps me take the time and lets me try them all on. I would never want to go anywhere else! I definitely would recommend this office to anyone looking for a great eye doctor.

Kayla W.

This is not for the eye exam but for the frames selection portion. I brought my prescription from Kaiser here with my VSP insurance. The reception staff was very polite and professional.  Manny helped me to pick out frames and explain my coverage.  Very helpful and patient not like the individual at the other place I rated here on Yelp.  I was running late and he still helped me and was not bothered at all.  I am so glad I came here ..........very pleased.

Very professional staff and pleasant.

Daniel G.
1 2 3



Understanding Foggy vision

Is foggy vision troubling you? Let our experienced optometrist restore your sight – book an appointment today and see the difference! The term foggy vision often refers to a visual disturbance characterized by blurred, cloudy, or hazy vision, which can make seeing clearly challenging. As your local optometrist, we recognize the significance of maintaining optimal […]

Read More

Vision Therapy for Nystagmus: Improving Visual Function and Quality of Life

According to the National Eye Institute, nystagmus affects approximately 0.24% of the general population in the United States. This means a whopping 720,000 individuals in the US face the challenges of nystagmus. How does Nystagmus Impact Vision?  Nystagmus is a condition that affects the eyes, causing involuntary and rapid movements that can make it difficult to […]

Read More

Cleaning Your Eyelids With Hypochlorous Acid: The Ultimate Solution for Eyelid Infections and Inflammation From Blepharitis

Are you tired of dealing with eyelid inflammation? Well, there's good news for you! Hypochlorous acid, a natural bactericidal compound, has been clinically shown to help fight against various eyelid conditions such as blepharitis, and it's even effective at preventing the development of styes and other eyelid infections. In this blog, we'll be exploring the […]

Read More
see all blogs

Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare

Amplify EyeCare of Greater Long Beach Logo

Working Hours

Monday & Wednesday

Tuesday & Thursday

By appointment only

Friday & Sunday



16816 Clark Ave, Bellflower, CA 90706
(562) 867-8719
Website Accessibility Policy
Safety protocols page
privacy policy
Cancellation Policy
For Patients
Call Us
For Patients
Call Us
eyefile-adduserphone-handsetcalendar-fullarrow-uparrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram