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What Is Keratitis? Symptoms and Treatment


The word Keratitis refers to the inflammation of the cornea, which is the transparent hemispherical structure present at the front of the eye. This inflammation may be infectious or non-infectious in origin.

Organisms that infect the cornea include bacteria, parasites (like the acanthamoeba or different worms), viruses, or fungi. These organisms may infect the eye through direct contact for e.g. when a contaminated hand rubs the eye; or may extend into the eye once they are already present in the body for e.g. if a herpes infection involves the nerves of the face and thus extends into the eye due to its close proximity.

Non-infectious reasons for keratitis mainly include chemical injury, trauma to the eye, presence of a foreign body, allergic reactions and systemic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.



If you are suffering from keratitis, you may experience one or a few of the following:

  • Redness of the eye
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A feeling as if something is present within the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Tear production in the involved eye
  • Discharge from the eye:
    • This may be thick or watery in consistency, and green or yellow in color
  • Pus may be seen collecting within the anterior eye
  • Different corneal lesions may be noted depending on the cause of the disease:
    • Opacities may be noted within the cornea, these may appear as spots, or branching, feathery structures
    • The entire cornea may appear hazy
    • A ring of pus may form within the cornea

close herpes simplex keratitis during eye exam-dyzeye


Depending on the cause of the condition, the diagnosis of keratitis may be made clinically by the ophthalmologist. However, your doctor may examine your eye using different eye drops and laboratory analysis of substances taken from your eye may be done. Your doctor may also evaluate the  condition of your eye using different medical apparatus.



Depending on the severity and etiology of the disease, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Eye drops to reduce internal eye movements (reduces pain)
  • Topical pain relieving eye drops
  • Antibiotic eye ointment
  • Antibiotic eye drops
  • Oral Antibiotics
  • Antiviral eye ointment
  • Antiviral eye drops
  • Oral Antiviral medication
  • Eye ointment/drops to reduce inflammation
  • Eye drops containing artificial tears
  • Anti-allergic eye drops or ointment
  • Oral medication to reduce inflammation
  • Surgery may be done to remove the damaged layer of cornea, correct or to evacuate pus from within the eye
  • Underlying systemic disease (e.g., Rheumatoid Arthritis) may, sometimes, need to be treated in order to control the damage ocurring in the eye



Keratitis may progress to involve the entire eye or extend forwards to cause corneal scarring if untreated. If corneal scarring occurs, surgery may be needed to correct the resulting visual disturbances. Extension of infection into the rest of the eye may lead to complete loss of the eye. In order to prevent these serious complications, it is important to go to the doctor for an eye check up as soon as symptoms are noted.


Conditions that mimic:

The symptoms of keratitis may overlap with a few very serious conditions of the eye. When you go for a check-up, your physician will first and foremost exclude these conditions to ensure that your sight is not threatened in any way. These conditions include:

  • Uveitis (inflammation of the iris, choroid or ciliary body)
  • Glaucoma (a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged, compromising the patient’s field of vision)
  • Corneal ulcer (an ulcer that develops in the transparent membrane that covers the front of the iris and the pupil)
  • Foreign body in the eye (a foreign body within the eye can infect the entire eyeball which may lead to very serious consequences)



  • Singh P, Gupta A, Tripathy K. Keratitis. [Updated 2021 Aug 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:

Disclaimer: The information on this blog is intended to educate and inform and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Prior to acting on the information provided on this blog, you should consult your doctor/healthcare professional.

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