Pet Corneal Ulcers

By definition, corneal ulcers are disruptions of the different layers of the cornea.

What is a corneal ulcer?

Ulcers can range from superficial (disruption of the superficial epithelium only), deep (loss of portions of the corneal stroma), to perforating (full thickness defect).

What are the signs of a corneal ulcer?

The cornea is one of the most innervated parts of the body. Thus, damage to the cornea is very painful. Signs of ocular pain include squinting, rubbing, and avoidance of light (photophobia). Other symptoms associated with corneal ulcers include redness, cloudiness, and ocular discharge.


What causes a corneal ulcer?

The most common cause of corneal ulcers is trauma. Other causes include eyelid abnormalities such as improper eyelash growth (distichia) or placement (ectopic cilia) and enrolling of the eyelid (entropion); decreased tear production (keratoconjunctivitis sicca); inability to blink properly (lagophthalmos); and loss of corneal innervation (neutrogenic keratitis).

What is the treatment for a corneal ulcer?

The treatment for uncomplicated superficial corneal ulcers is strictly medical, mostly antibiotic drops to prevent secondary infection and a topical analgesic to relieve the pain. A superficial ulcer should heal within a week. Superficial ulcers that fail to heal within a week or eyes that get recurrent ulcers indicate that there is an underlying problem (such as lid problems or keratoconjunctivitis sicca). Identification of the complicating condition and proper treatment to resolve the problem is necessary to allow for the successful resolution of the ulcer. Deep corneal ulcers (ulcers extending more than half the corneal thickness) require surgical management as well as medical therapy for a successful outcome. Surgical treatment of deep corneal ulcers has a high success rate (>90%), resulting in a comfortable and visual eye. An ulcer that is allowed to continue to full thickness causes a corneal perforation or a breach of the globe. Correction of this problem is possible, and vision can potentially be restored, but requires significant surgical and medical management.