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Corneal Abrasions, Erosion, and Ulcers

Corneal abrasions, erosions, and ulcers are classified as corneal epithelial defects. These defects are differentiated according to their depth: abrasions are into the corneal surface epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology, erosions involve the corneal epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology and epithelial basement membrane Basement membrane A darkly stained mat-like extracellular matrix (ecm) that separates cell layers, such as epithelium from endothelium or a layer of connective tissue. The ecm layer that supports an overlying epithelium or endothelium is called basal lamina. Basement membrane (bm) can be formed by the fusion of either two adjacent basal laminae or a basal lamina with an adjacent reticular lamina of connective tissue. Bm, composed mainly of type IV collagen; glycoprotein laminin; and proteoglycan, provides barriers as well as channels between interacting cell layers. Thin Basement Membrane Nephropathy (TBMN), and ulcers extend into the underlying stroma. Corneal defects are commonly caused by injury to the eye by foreign bodies, spontaneous causes such as corneal epithelial dystrophy, or infections Infections Invasion of the host organism by microorganisms or their toxins or by parasites that can cause pathological conditions or diseases. Chronic Granulomatous Disease. These injuries are diagnosed with proper history taking and physical examination. Slit-lamp examination Slit-Lamp Examination Blepharitis is used for confirmation. Treatment includes use of topical lubricants, analgesics, antibiotics, and an eye patch Patch Nonpalpable lesion > 1 cm in diameter Generalized and Localized Rashes. Minor surgical procedures are used in treating erosions. Complications include infections Infections Invasion of the host organism by microorganisms or their toxins or by parasites that can cause pathological conditions or diseases. Chronic Granulomatous Disease, loss of vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam, perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis, and irregular astigmatism Astigmatism Unequal curvature of the refractive surfaces of the eye. Thus a point source of light cannot be brought to a point focus on the retina but is spread over a more or less diffuse area. This results from the radius of curvature in one plane being longer or shorter than the radius at right angles to it. . Refractive Errors.

Last updated: Jul 19, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Overview

Anatomy

The cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy is a transparent, avascular part of the eye that covers the iris, anterior chamber Anterior chamber The space in the eye, filled with aqueous humor, bounded anteriorly by the cornea and a small portion of the sclera and posteriorly by a small portion of the ciliary body, the iris, and that part of the crystalline lens which presents through the pupil. Eye: Anatomy, and pupil Pupil The pupil is the space within the eye that permits light to project onto the retina. Anatomically located in front of the lens, the pupil’s size is controlled by the surrounding iris. The pupil provides insight into the function of the central and autonomic nervous systems. Pupil: Physiology and Abnormalities. The corneal layers include: 

  • Epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology
  • Bowman’s membrane
  • Stroma
  • Descemet membrane
  • Stroma

Definition

Corneal epithelial defects are conditions that disturb the structural integrity of the cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy. Corneal abrasions, erosions, and ulcers are defects in the corneal epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology and are classified by the depth of involvement of corneal layers:

  • Corneal abrasions are defined as a defect in the corneal surface epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology
  • Corneal erosions involve the corneal epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology and epithelial basement membrane Basement membrane A darkly stained mat-like extracellular matrix (ecm) that separates cell layers, such as epithelium from endothelium or a layer of connective tissue. The ecm layer that supports an overlying epithelium or endothelium is called basal lamina. Basement membrane (bm) can be formed by the fusion of either two adjacent basal laminae or a basal lamina with an adjacent reticular lamina of connective tissue. Bm, composed mainly of type IV collagen; glycoprotein laminin; and proteoglycan, provides barriers as well as channels between interacting cell layers. Thin Basement Membrane Nephropathy (TBMN) and result in loosening of the epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology from the layers underneath.
  • Corneal ulcers are a defect in the surface epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology with underlying inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation that involves the underlying stroma.
Corneal abrasion

Corneal abrasion Abrasion Soft Tissue Abscess

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Epidemiology

  • Corneal epithelial defects make up about 8%–13% of all emergency cases related to the eyes.
  • Corneal ulcers are much more common in those who wear contact lenses or wear contact lenses for extended periods of time. 

Etiology

Corneal abrasions:

  • Traumatic: 
    • Fingernails
    • Paper
    • Tree branches
    • Makeup brushes
    • Foreign bodies in the eye (e.g., dust, sand, wood, metal, glass)
    • Contact lenses
  • Spontaneous: 
    • May occur with no immediate injury
    • An underlying defect in the corneal epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology (e.g., epithelial basement membrane Basement membrane A darkly stained mat-like extracellular matrix (ecm) that separates cell layers, such as epithelium from endothelium or a layer of connective tissue. The ecm layer that supports an overlying epithelium or endothelium is called basal lamina. Basement membrane (bm) can be formed by the fusion of either two adjacent basal laminae or a basal lamina with an adjacent reticular lamina of connective tissue. Bm, composed mainly of type IV collagen; glycoprotein laminin; and proteoglycan, provides barriers as well as channels between interacting cell layers. Thin Basement Membrane Nephropathy (TBMN) dystrophy) may cause this problem.

Corneal erosions:

  • Trauma (may occur at the site of a previous abrasion Abrasion Soft Tissue Abscess)
  • Can occur in individuals with dry eyes
  • In cases of no obvious history of trauma, corneal epithelial, stromal, and endothelial dystrophies should be suspected.

Corneal ulcers:

  • Bacterial (most common):
    • Staphylococcus aureus Staphylococcus aureus Potentially pathogenic bacteria found in nasal membranes, skin, hair follicles, and perineum of warm-blooded animals. They may cause a wide range of infections and intoxications. Brain Abscess
    • Pseudomonas aeruginosa Pseudomonas aeruginosa A species of gram-negative, aerobic, rod-shaped bacteria commonly isolated from clinical specimens (wound, burn, and urinary tract infections). It is also found widely distributed in soil and water. P. Aeruginosa is a major agent of nosocomial infection. Pseudomonas
    • Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus pneumoniae
    • Escherichia coli Escherichia coli The gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli is a key component of the human gut microbiota. Most strains of E. coli are avirulent, but occasionally they escape the GI tract, infecting the urinary tract and other sites. Less common strains of E. coli are able to cause disease within the GI tract, most commonly presenting as abdominal pain and diarrhea. Escherichia coli
  • Viral:
    • Herpes simplex Herpes Simplex A group of acute infections caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2 that is characterized by the development of one or more small fluid-filled vesicles with a raised erythematous base on the skin or mucous membrane. It occurs as a primary infection or recurs due to a reactivation of a latent infection. Congenital TORCH Infections 
    • Varicella zoster
    • Cytomegalovirus Cytomegalovirus CMV is a ubiquitous double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the Herpesviridae family. CMV infections can be transmitted in bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, semen, and breast milk. The initial infection is usually asymptomatic in the immunocompetent host, or it can present with symptoms of mononucleosis. Cytomegalovirus
  • Fungal:
    • Aspergillus Aspergillus A genus of mitosporic fungi containing about 100 species and eleven different teleomorphs in the family trichocomaceae. Echinocandins
    • Fusarium
    • Candida albicans Candida albicans A unicellular budding fungus which is the principal pathogenic species causing candidiasis (moniliasis). Candida/Candidiasis and other Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis species 
  • Protozoa Protozoa Nitroimidazoles (Acanthamoeba):
    • Found in fresh water and in soil
    • Particularly affect Affect The feeling-tone accompaniment of an idea or mental representation. It is the most direct psychic derivative of instinct and the psychic representative of the various bodily changes by means of which instincts manifest themselves. Psychiatric Assessment contact lens Lens A transparent, biconvex structure of the eye, enclosed in a capsule and situated behind the iris and in front of the vitreous humor (vitreous body). It is slightly overlapped at its margin by the ciliary processes. Adaptation by the ciliary body is crucial for ocular accommodation. Eye: Anatomy wearers
  • Autoimmune:
    • Rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a symmetric, inflammatory polyarthritis and chronic, progressive, autoimmune disorder. Presentation occurs most commonly in middle-aged women with joint swelling, pain, and morning stiffness (often in the hands). Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus Systemic lupus erythematosus Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune, inflammatory condition that causes immune-complex deposition in organs, resulting in systemic manifestations. Women, particularly those of African American descent, are more commonly affected. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
    • Connective tissue Connective tissue Connective tissues originate from embryonic mesenchyme and are present throughout the body except inside the brain and spinal cord. The main function of connective tissues is to provide structural support to organs. Connective tissues consist of cells and an extracellular matrix. Connective Tissue: Histology disorders
    • Vasculitis Vasculitis Inflammation of any one of the blood vessels, including the arteries; veins; and rest of the vasculature system in the body. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Idiopathic Idiopathic Dermatomyositis

Risk factors

Risk factors for corneal ulcers include:

  • Contact lenses (particularly with prolonged wear)
  • Corneal injuries
  • Dry eyes
  • Eyelid abnormalities
  • Incomplete eyelid closure
  • Steroid eye drops

Pathophysiology

Corneal abrasions and erosions:

  • Often caused by insult or injury to the corneal epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology 
  • Abrasions are limited to the surface epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology
  • Erosions:
    • Insult results in disruption of the epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology and Bowman membrane
    • Epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology detaches
  • Insults to the center of the cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy may affect Affect The feeling-tone accompaniment of an idea or mental representation. It is the most direct psychic derivative of instinct and the psychic representative of the various bodily changes by means of which instincts manifest themselves. Psychiatric Assessment visual acuity Visual Acuity Clarity or sharpness of ocular vision or the ability of the eye to see fine details. Visual acuity depends on the functions of retina, neuronal transmission, and the interpretative ability of the brain. Normal visual acuity is expressed as 20/20 indicating that one can see at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Visual acuity can also be influenced by brightness, color, and contrast. Ophthalmic Exam.

Corneal ulcers:

  • Can be initiated by:
    • Epithelial defect
    • Invasion by a pathogen
    • Autoinflammatory conditions
  • Corneal ulcers result in:
    • Infiltration of the cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy by inflammatory cells
    • Ulceration results from necrosis Necrosis The death of cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury or failure of the blood supply. Ischemic Cell Damage and sloughing of:
      • Epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology
      • Bowman membrane
      • Stroma
    • Epithelialization Epithelialization Anal Fistula (during healing) can form a scar Scar Dermatologic Examination.

Clinical Presentation

Individuals usually have a history of trauma to the globe, either by foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration or finger.

Corneal abrasions and erosions

  • Severe pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways
  • Photophobia Photophobia Abnormal sensitivity to light. This may occur as a manifestation of eye diseases; migraine; subarachnoid hemorrhage; meningitis; and other disorders. Photophobia may also occur in association with depression and other mental disorders. Migraine Headache
  • Reluctance to open the eye
  • Foreign-body sensation
  • Erythema Erythema Redness of the skin produced by congestion of the capillaries. This condition may result from a variety of disease processes. Chalazion
  • Tearing (lacrimation)

Corneal ulcers

In addition to the above signs and symptoms:

  • Erythema Erythema Redness of the skin produced by congestion of the capillaries. This condition may result from a variety of disease processes. Chalazion of eyelid and conjunctiva Conjunctiva The mucous membrane that covers the posterior surface of the eyelids and the anterior pericorneal surface of the eyeball. Eye: Anatomy
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Corneal opacification
  • Vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam

Diagnosis

Physical examination

History and ophthalmic examination:

  • History taking points toward the etiology of the condition and may provide a direction for further management.
  • A careful physical examination of the eye must be done to determine the extent of injury and to rule out any perforations or immediate loss of visual acuity Visual Acuity Clarity or sharpness of ocular vision or the ability of the eye to see fine details. Visual acuity depends on the functions of retina, neuronal transmission, and the interpretative ability of the brain. Normal visual acuity is expressed as 20/20 indicating that one can see at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Visual acuity can also be influenced by brightness, color, and contrast. Ophthalmic Exam
  • Extraocular movements should be tested to rule out any pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways with movement of the eye or double vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam.
  • Evert the eyelid to check for retained foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration
  • A scraping from a corneal ulcer can be sent for culture.

Slit-lamp examination Slit-Lamp Examination Blepharitis:

  • The gold standard to detect corneal defects by examining for: 
    • Foreign bodies
    • Epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology defects
    • Infiltrates
    • Edema Edema Edema is a condition in which excess serous fluid accumulates in the body cavity or interstitial space of connective tissues. Edema is a symptom observed in several medical conditions. It can be categorized into 2 types, namely, peripheral (in the extremities) and internal (in an organ or body cavity). Edema
    • Perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis
    • Signs of corneal dystrophies Corneal Dystrophies Anomalies of the Cornea
    • Anterior chamber Anterior chamber The space in the eye, filled with aqueous humor, bounded anteriorly by the cornea and a small portion of the sclera and posteriorly by a small portion of the ciliary body, the iris, and that part of the crystalline lens which presents through the pupil. Eye: Anatomy for depth and the presence of inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation, including:
      • Hypopyon Hypopyon Diseases of the Uvea, or pus in the anterior chamber Anterior chamber The space in the eye, filled with aqueous humor, bounded anteriorly by the cornea and a small portion of the sclera and posteriorly by a small portion of the ciliary body, the iris, and that part of the crystalline lens which presents through the pupil. Eye: Anatomy, might be present in cases of infective corneal ulcer.
      • Hyphema, or blood in the anterior chamber Anterior chamber The space in the eye, filled with aqueous humor, bounded anteriorly by the cornea and a small portion of the sclera and posteriorly by a small portion of the ciliary body, the iris, and that part of the crystalline lens which presents through the pupil. Eye: Anatomy, might be present in cases of penetrating injuries Penetrating injuries Wounds caused by objects penetrating the skin. Genitourinary Trauma.
  • Fluorescein Fluorescein A phthalic indicator dye that appears yellow-green in normal tear film and bright green in a more alkaline medium such as the aqueous humor. Pseudomonas dye is added to detect corneal epithelial defects:
    • The dye stains the basement membrane Basement membrane A darkly stained mat-like extracellular matrix (ecm) that separates cell layers, such as epithelium from endothelium or a layer of connective tissue. The ecm layer that supports an overlying epithelium or endothelium is called basal lamina. Basement membrane (bm) can be formed by the fusion of either two adjacent basal laminae or a basal lamina with an adjacent reticular lamina of connective tissue. Bm, composed mainly of type IV collagen; glycoprotein laminin; and proteoglycan, provides barriers as well as channels between interacting cell layers. Thin Basement Membrane Nephropathy (TBMN) brightly, which is exposed in the area of the injury.  
    • Defects light up green with cobalt blue light

Management and Complications

Management of corneal abrasions

  • Removal of foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration, if present
  • Topical antibiotic therapy may be used.
  • Analgesia Analgesia Methods of pain relief that may be used with or in place of analgesics. Anesthesiology: History and Basic Concepts:
    • Topical or oral NSAIDs NSAIDS Primary vs Secondary Headaches
    • Oral opioids Opioids Opiates are drugs that are derived from the sap of the opium poppy. Opiates have been used since antiquity for the relief of acute severe pain. Opioids are synthetic opiates with properties that are substantially similar to those of opiates. Opioid Analgesics
    • Cycloplegic drops to inhibit pupil Pupil The pupil is the space within the eye that permits light to project onto the retina. Anatomically located in front of the lens, the pupil’s size is controlled by the surrounding iris. The pupil provides insight into the function of the central and autonomic nervous systems. Pupil: Physiology and Abnormalities constriction; may include:
  • Pressure patch Patch Nonpalpable lesion > 1 cm in diameter Generalized and Localized Rashes
    • Contraindicated in individuals with abrasions caused by contact lens Lens A transparent, biconvex structure of the eye, enclosed in a capsule and situated behind the iris and in front of the vitreous humor (vitreous body). It is slightly overlapped at its margin by the ciliary processes. Adaptation by the ciliary body is crucial for ocular accommodation. Eye: Anatomy wear or in cases in which foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration is still present. 
    • Applied for  < 24 hours 
    • Promotes epithelial proliferation and migration, as the lid is kept stationary over the epithelial defect.
  • Topical steroids Steroids A group of polycyclic compounds closely related biochemically to terpenes. They include cholesterol, numerous hormones, precursors of certain vitamins, bile acids, alcohols (sterols), and certain natural drugs and poisons. Steroids have a common nucleus, a fused, reduced 17-carbon atom ring system, cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene. Most steroids also have two methyl groups and an aliphatic side-chain attached to the nucleus. Benign Liver Tumors must not be used in any case.

Management of corneal erosions

  • Treated in the same way as traumatic abrasions
  • Lubricants are the 1st line of therapy.
  • Analgesics
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Individuals unresponsive to lubrication or who have large erosions can be treated with an extended-wear bandage soft contact lens Lens A transparent, biconvex structure of the eye, enclosed in a capsule and situated behind the iris and in front of the vitreous humor (vitreous body). It is slightly overlapped at its margin by the ciliary processes. Adaptation by the ciliary body is crucial for ocular accommodation. Eye: Anatomy
  • In cases in which no improvement occurs, minor surgical procedures can be done:
    • Anterior stromal micropuncture: 
    • Epithelial debridement Debridement The removal of foreign material and devitalized or contaminated tissue from or adjacent to a traumatic or infected lesion until surrounding healthy tissue is exposed. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is done for lesions in the visual axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy
    • Phototherapeutic keratectomy is done in individuals for whom all other treatment methods have failed: 
      • Mechanical debridement Debridement The removal of foreign material and devitalized or contaminated tissue from or adjacent to a traumatic or infected lesion until surrounding healthy tissue is exposed. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome of the overlying corneal epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology.
      • A laser is used to ablate part of the Bowman layer.

Management of corneal ulcers

  • Medical emergency that can lead to permanent vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam impairment
  • Nonspecific therapy:
    • Analgesics
    • Cycloplegic drugs
  • Bacterial corneal ulcers: 
    • Topical antibiotics (e.g., moxifloxacin Moxifloxacin A fluoroquinolone that acts as an inhibitor of DNA topoisomerase II and is used as a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent. Fluoroquinolones, gatifloxacin, tobramycin, cefazolin Cefazolin A semisynthetic cephalosporin analog with broad-spectrum antibiotic action due to inhibition of bacterial cell wall synthesis. It attains high serum levels and is excreted quickly via the urine. Cephalosporins)
    • Systemic antibiotics might be necessary in severe infections Infections Invasion of the host organism by microorganisms or their toxins or by parasites that can cause pathological conditions or diseases. Chronic Granulomatous Disease.
  • Viral corneal ulcers: topical or systemic antivirals
  • Fungal corneal ulcers:
    • Topical antifungals (e.g., natamycin, amphotericin) should be used for 6–8 weeks.
    • Systemic antifungal Antifungal Azoles drugs may be required in severe cases.
  • Acanthamoeba corneal ulcers: 
    • Optimal treatment is still uncertain.
    • 12–16 weeks of anti-amoebic therapy (e.g., propamidine, hexamidine, chlorhexidine, polyhexamethylene biguanide)
    • Topical riboflavin + ultraviolet (UV) light or topical antifungals may be used in those with a poor response to standard treatment.
    • Mechanical debridement Debridement The removal of foreign material and devitalized or contaminated tissue from or adjacent to a traumatic or infected lesion until surrounding healthy tissue is exposed. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and corneal transplantation Corneal transplantation Partial or total replacement of the cornea from one human or animal to another. Organ Transplantation may be considered in refractory cases.

Complications

  • Corneal scarring Scarring Inflammation
  • Infective corneal ulcers
  • Perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis
  • Corneal opacities
  • Irregular astigmatism Astigmatism Unequal curvature of the refractive surfaces of the eye. Thus a point source of light cannot be brought to a point focus on the retina but is spread over a more or less diffuse area. This results from the radius of curvature in one plane being longer or shorter than the radius at right angles to it. . Refractive Errors
  • Vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam loss

Differential Diagnosis

  • Hyphema: condition in which blood collects in the anterior chamber Anterior chamber The space in the eye, filled with aqueous humor, bounded anteriorly by the cornea and a small portion of the sclera and posteriorly by a small portion of the ciliary body, the iris, and that part of the crystalline lens which presents through the pupil. Eye: Anatomy. Hyphema is most commonly caused by trauma. Partial or complete loss of visual acuity Visual Acuity Clarity or sharpness of ocular vision or the ability of the eye to see fine details. Visual acuity depends on the functions of retina, neuronal transmission, and the interpretative ability of the brain. Normal visual acuity is expressed as 20/20 indicating that one can see at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Visual acuity can also be influenced by brightness, color, and contrast. Ophthalmic Exam is the 1st sign of hyphema. Management includes analgesics, cycloplegics, topical steroids Steroids A group of polycyclic compounds closely related biochemically to terpenes. They include cholesterol, numerous hormones, precursors of certain vitamins, bile acids, alcohols (sterols), and certain natural drugs and poisons. Steroids have a common nucleus, a fused, reduced 17-carbon atom ring system, cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene. Most steroids also have two methyl groups and an aliphatic side-chain attached to the nucleus. Benign Liver Tumors, and patching.
  • Hypopyon Hypopyon Diseases of the Uvea: condition in which inflammatory cells and exudates collect in the anterior chamber Anterior chamber The space in the eye, filled with aqueous humor, bounded anteriorly by the cornea and a small portion of the sclera and posteriorly by a small portion of the ciliary body, the iris, and that part of the crystalline lens which presents through the pupil. Eye: Anatomy. Hypopyon Hypopyon Diseases of the Uvea is a result of an underlying infection and is often seen in bacterial and fungal corneal ulcers. The main symptoms are pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways and partial or complete loss of visual acuity Visual Acuity Clarity or sharpness of ocular vision or the ability of the eye to see fine details. Visual acuity depends on the functions of retina, neuronal transmission, and the interpretative ability of the brain. Normal visual acuity is expressed as 20/20 indicating that one can see at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Visual acuity can also be influenced by brightness, color, and contrast. Ophthalmic Exam. The condition is treated by topical and systemic antibacterial Antibacterial Penicillins or antifungal Antifungal Azoles agents given along with analgesics. 
  • Iritis Iritis Inflammation of the iris characterized by circumcorneal injection, aqueous flare, keratotic precipitates, and constricted and sluggish pupil along with discoloration of the iris. Leprosy: inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the anterior or posterior chamber Posterior chamber Eye: Anatomy and iris. The main symptoms of iritis Iritis Inflammation of the iris characterized by circumcorneal injection, aqueous flare, keratotic precipitates, and constricted and sluggish pupil along with discoloration of the iris. Leprosy include pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways, photophobia Photophobia Abnormal sensitivity to light. This may occur as a manifestation of eye diseases; migraine; subarachnoid hemorrhage; meningitis; and other disorders. Photophobia may also occur in association with depression and other mental disorders. Migraine Headache, and pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways associated with ocular movements. Management includes topical cycloplegics and topical steroids Steroids A group of polycyclic compounds closely related biochemically to terpenes. They include cholesterol, numerous hormones, precursors of certain vitamins, bile acids, alcohols (sterols), and certain natural drugs and poisons. Steroids have a common nucleus, a fused, reduced 17-carbon atom ring system, cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene. Most steroids also have two methyl groups and an aliphatic side-chain attached to the nucleus. Benign Liver Tumors.
  • Chemical burns Burns A burn is a type of injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Burns are classified according to their depth as superficial (1st-degree), partial-thickness (2nd-degree), full-thickness (3rd-degree), and 4th-degree burns. Burns: ocular emergency. Chemical burns Burns A burn is a type of injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Burns are classified according to their depth as superficial (1st-degree), partial-thickness (2nd-degree), full-thickness (3rd-degree), and 4th-degree burns. Burns are a result of exposure of the eye to various chemicals. Alkali injuries are the most common. Chemical burns Burns A burn is a type of injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Burns are classified according to their depth as superficial (1st-degree), partial-thickness (2nd-degree), full-thickness (3rd-degree), and 4th-degree burns. Burns produce extensive damage to the ocular surface epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology, cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy, and anterior segment, resulting in permanent unilateral or bilateral visual impairment. These injuries should be managed as an emergency condition, and rehabilitation plays a major role in restoring vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam.
  • Foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration: can be partially or completely lodged in the cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy and can be mistaken for a corneal ulcer. A foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration might itself cause a corneal ulcer. A foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration causes damage to the epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology and hence provides entry for various pathogens. Management includes removal of the foreign body Foreign Body Foreign Body Aspiration and use of topical antibiotics, topical cycloplegics, and systemic analgesics. 
  • Herpes simplex virus Simplex Virus A genus of the family herpesviridae, subfamily alphaherpesvirinae, consisting of herpes simplex-like viruses. The type species is herpesvirus 1, human. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 epithelial keratitis Keratitis Inflammation of the cornea. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2: usually found in individuals with compromised immunity and is caused by herpes simplex virus Simplex Virus A genus of the family herpesviridae, subfamily alphaherpesvirinae, consisting of herpes simplex-like viruses. The type species is herpesvirus 1, human. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2. The presence of multiple small branching epithelial dendrites Dendrites Extensions of the nerve cell body. They are short and branched and receive stimuli from other neurons. Nervous System: Histology on the surface of the cornea Cornea The transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye consisting of five layers: stratified squamous corneal epithelium; bowman membrane; corneal stroma; descemet membrane; and mesenchymal corneal endothelium. It serves as the first refracting medium of the eye. Eye: Anatomy is the hallmark sign for this condition. Symptoms are pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways, erythema Erythema Redness of the skin produced by congestion of the capillaries. This condition may result from a variety of disease processes. Chalazion, decreased visual acuity Visual Acuity Clarity or sharpness of ocular vision or the ability of the eye to see fine details. Visual acuity depends on the functions of retina, neuronal transmission, and the interpretative ability of the brain. Normal visual acuity is expressed as 20/20 indicating that one can see at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Visual acuity can also be influenced by brightness, color, and contrast. Ophthalmic Exam, and excessive tearing. Management is antiviral Antiviral Antivirals for Hepatitis B therapy or lamellar keratoplasty.

References

  1. Jacobs, D. (2021). Corneal abrasions and corneal foreign bodies: clinical manifestations and diagnosis. UpToDate. Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/corneal-abrasions-and-corneal-foreign-bodies-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis
  2. Garg, P., Rao, G. N. (1999). Corneal ulcer: diagnosis and management. Community Eye Health 12(30):21–23.
  3. Miller, D. D., Hasan, S. A., Simmons, N. L., Stewart, M. W. (2019). Recurrent corneal erosion: a comprehensive review. Clinical Ophthalmology 13:325–335.
  4. Deschenes, J. (2020). Corneal Ulcer. Emedicine. Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1195680-overview?ecd=ppc_google_rlsa-traf_mscp_emed_md-ldlm-cohort_us#a5
  5. Verma, A. (2019). Corneal abrasion. Emedicine. Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1195402-overview?ecd=ppc_google_rlsa-traf_mscp_emed_md-ldlm-cohort_us
  6. Verma, A. (2018). Recurrent corneal erosion. Emedicine. Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1195183-overview?ecd=ppc_google_rlsa-traf_mscp_emed_md-ldlm-cohort_us
  7. Seas, C., and Bravo, F. (2022). Free-living amebas and prototheca. UpToDate. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/free-living-amebas-and-prototheca
  8. Weiner, G. (2012). Confronting corneal ulcers. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/confronting-corneal-ulcers
  9. Roat, M. I. (2020). Corneal ulcer. MSD Manual Professional Version. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/corneal-disorders/corneal-ulcer
  10. Wilson, S. A., and Last, A. (2004). Management of corneal abrasions. American Family Physician. 70(1):123–128. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2004/0701/p123.html

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