Definition of Keratitis

KeratitisKeratitis is an inflammation of the cornea, usually the result of an infection.

The cause of the infection is more commonly viral, such as herpes simplex or herpes zoster, than bacterial.

Symptoms Include

  • redness and irritation of the eye and conjunctiva (inner eyelids)
  • discomfort or pain
  • excessive tearing
  • difficulty keeping the eye open
  • diminished visual acuity (usually blurred vision)
  • eye discharge or crusting

Viral keratitis usually runs its course without complication, though occasionally a secondary bacterial infection may develop. Antiviral medications sometimes shorten the course of chronic herpes infections. Bacterial keratitis typically follows a corneal injury, such as an abrasion or laceration, and requires treatment with ophthalmic antibiotic medications.

Chronic or recurrent keratitis can cause permanent scarring of the cornea, resulting in diminished visual acuity such as astigmatism. Extensive corneal damage may require corneal transplantation.

Sunburn is the most common cause of noninfectious keratitis. Extended exposure to the sun, especially on or around water, exposes the surface of the eye to the same ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn of the skin. Ultraviolet burns to the cornea are painful; treatment with ophthalmic corticosteroid medications helps reduce the inflammation.


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