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Keratitis vs Corneal Ulcer: What differentiates the two?

Gina Walters


keratitis vs corneal ulcer

People often use the words “Keratitis” and “Corneal Ulcer” to refer to the same eye problem. Still, they are two distinct eye problems. 

You need to understand these differences to make the correct evaluation and get the right treatment. 

We will talk about the difference between Keratitis vs Corneal Ulcers. 

We will discuss the difference between their causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What is Keratitis vs Corneal Ulcer

Keratitis is an infection of the cornea, the clear front part of the eye that protects the iris and pupil. 

Keratitis can occur due to several factors, such as infections, injuries, Dry Eyes, or health problems that are already there. 

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites often cause Keratitis

People wearing contact lenses are also more likely to get sick, especially if they don’t care about cleanliness. 

A Corneal Ulcer, on the other hand, is an open wound on the cornea that often has the top layer of cells wearing away. 

Like Keratitis, Corneal Ulcers can be brought on by injuries, infections, or health problems already there. 

Corneal Ulcers can be mild or severe, ranging from small sores on the surface to deep ulcers that can damage your sight.

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Symptoms: Corneal Ulcer vs Keratitis

Blurry visionSource: zoranm_from_Getty_Images
Blurry vision

To get a correct diagnosis and good care, it is important to tell the difference between the symptoms of Keratitis and Corneal Ulcers. 

Some of the most common symptoms of Keratitis are eye pain, swelling, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. 

On the other hand, Corneal Ulcers symptoms include severe eye pain, redness, swelling, discharge from the eye, and loss of vision. 

Both conditions can blur your vision, but the severity and other symptoms might help you tell them apart. 

People with chronic eye pain, redness, or changes in their vision should immediately see a doctor. 

For the right treatment, you require a full and proper examination. This way, you can get the right treatment at the right time to protect your eye health.

Regular eye checkups can help a lot in treating both these eye conditions therefore get your eyes checked up regularly to make sure your eyes are healthy.

Treatment of Keratitis and Corneal Ulcer

Use artificial tears eyedropSource: Denisfilm_From_Getty_Images
Moisturizing eye drops

A full eye checkup is necessary when treating Keratitis and Corneal Ulcers. Eye doctors often use a slit lamp to look closely at the cornea. 

Also, if the eye is infected with an ulcer, they might take a sample of the discharge to be analyzed in a lab to find the cause.

Let us take a closer look at the treatment options available for treating both these problems


Topical Antibiotics or Antifungals: Depending on the cause, antibiotic or antifungal eye drops might be prescribed to you by your doctor in case of bacterial Keratitis.

Antiviral medication: Antiviral medications may be necessary in cases of viral Keratitis.

Pain relievers: Over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever medicines may be recommended to manage pain or discomfort.

Moisturizing eye drops: Lubricating eye drops can help ease the symptoms of Dry Eyes.

Want to know more about the various Keratitis eye drops? Read our article: Keratitis Eye Drops: An Effective Way to Treat Eye Conditions

Do not take these eye drops or medicines without consulting a doctor. There might be side effects or interactions that you might not know about.

Corneal Ulcer

Corticosteroids: In some cases, corticosteroid eye drops may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

Oral medicines: Depending on the severity and cause, oral antibiotics or antifungals might be required.

Corneal Patching or Bandage Contact Lenses: This method can help protect the cornea and enhance healing.

Surgical intervention: In some severe cases, surgical intervention might be necessary, such as corneal transplantation.

AspectKeratitisCorneal Ulcer
DefinitionCauses a burning sensation in the cornea Open wound on the cornea making the top layer cells wear off
CausesInfections (bacterial, viral, fungal, etc.), dry eyes, contact lensInfections (bacterial, viral, fungal, etc.), trauma, underlying conditions
SymptomsEye pain, redness, sensitivity to light, blurry visionSevere eye pain, pronounced redness, swelling, discharge, decreased vision
TreatmentsTopical antibiotics/antifungals, antiviral medications, lubricating eye dropsTopical antibiotics/antifungals, antiviral medications, corticosteroids, surgical


In conclusion, differentiating Keratitis vs Corneal Ulcers is important for effective and proper treatment. 

While the two eye problems are often confused to be the same, they are quite different, with varying causes and symptoms. 

Understanding these minor differences, such as eye pain, redness, or vision changes, is crucial for seeking timely medical attention. 

A thorough eye examination by a doctor, including the use of a slit lamp and laboratory analysis, ensures an accurate diagnosis. 

Treatment strategies, including topical and pain relief medicines and, in severe cases, surgical interventions, are all important.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Keratitis the same as Corneal Ulcer?

Yes, Keratitis is often called Corneal Ulcer, which refers to the inflammation or irritation that occurs on the cornea’s surface.

What are the common symptoms of Keratitis and Corneal Ulcers?

Keratitis symptoms include eye pain, swelling, light sensitivity, and blurred vision. At the same time, Corneal Ulcers symptoms include severe eye pain, redness, swelling, discharge, and vision loss.

Are Keratitis and Corneal Ulcers treatable?

Yes, both conditions are treatable. Treatment includes topical antibiotics for Keratitis and may involve corticosteroids or surgery for corneal ulcers, depending on severity.

When should I see a doctor for eye pain or vision changes?

If you experience changes in your vision, eye pain, or redness, you should immediately consult a doctor. Early detection through a full eye test makes choosing the right treatment path easy.

What are the various stages of Corneal Ulcer?

A Corneal Ulcer can undergo four stages: advancing through progressive infiltration, active ulceration, transitioning into regression, and ultimately reaching the healing phase.

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