Cornea is clear, dome-shaped tissue that covers the pupil and the iris of the eye. Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea, which may or may not include an infection. Non-infectious keratitis can be caused my mechanical trauma, such as a scratch with a fingernail, contact lens or another object, while infectious keratitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.
Keratitis is usually acute, which means it goes away after proper treatment. However, in rare cases, the inflammation can persist and become chronic.
Symptoms of chronic keratitis
The symptoms of chronic keratitis are basically the same as the symptoms of acute keratitis. They usually include redness and pain of the eye, watery eyes, discharge from the eye, difficulty opening the eyelids, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, irritation, itching or burning of the eye and swelling.
These symptoms may easily be confused with other eye diseases, such as conjunctivitis, which is why it is important to see a doctor who will do tests and physical exam and make a diagnosis.
Causes of chronic keratitis
As it is mentioned above, the cause of cornea inflammation can be non-infectious, usually resulting from an injury. However, even if the inflammation is non-infectious in the beginning, microorganisms can penetrate the cornea and cause a secondary infection.
Contaminated contact lenses can also cause an infection. Bacteria, fungi or parasites can inhabit the lenses and pass to the eye when the lens is inserted. Acanthamoeba is a parasite that commonly causes keratitis from contact lenses.
Viruses, such as herpes, can also cause keratitis. There are really a lot of possibilities for contracting some type of microorganism and to develop and infection of the cornea.
Treatment for chronic keratitis
Chronic non-infectious keratitis is usually caused by wearing contact lenses for too long, which means that the therapy would consist of taking the lenses out for 24 hours, wearing an eye patch during that time and maybe applying some medicated eye ointments or drops.
Chronic keratitis means it cannot be treated with a simple course of antibiotics or anti-fungal medications. It is necessary to take stronger medication, not only topical but also oral. If the infection cannot be cured, it may indicate a microbial strain that is resistant to the medication, which means the therapy has to change. This is particularly the case with acanthamoeba infections, which are very difficult to treat. It most cases the cornea needs to be transplanted in a procedure called keratoplasty.
Viral keratitis is also hard to treat and even if it goes away, it can come back soon.