Atrium Health Navicent Ophthalmology Macon

Treating Corneal Diseases

Monitor displaying an enlarged image of an eye

The cornea is the outermost layer of your eye and is the part of the eye that contact lenses fit against. The cornea protects your eye from dirt and debris and serves to block some of the sun's harmful UV rays from entering the eye. While most corneal issues are genetic or classified as degenerations that occur from an abnormality, a few corneal diseases can affect both the function of the cornea and your vision. Here are some common ones and what can be done to treat them.


Keratitis is a disease of the cornea, which causes inflammation. It can sometimes be caused by infection when the cornea is exposed to bacteria, fungi or a virus. Sometimes these infections enter the cornea through a corneal injury or through contact lenses overwear. Keratitis can usually be cleared with antibacterial or antifungal eye drops and typically causes no lasting eye damage.

Ocular Herpes or Herpes Simplex

Both the virus that causes cold sores (commonly herpes simplex virus 1) and the virus that causes genital herpes (herpes simplex virus II) cause herpes of the eye. Ocular herpes causes sores to form on the cornea as well as inflammation that can penetrate more deeply into the eye. There is no cure for ocular herpes, but it can be managed and controlled with antiviral medications and steroidal eye drops for particular type of herpes simples.

Close up of an eye with Herpes

Shingles or Herpes Zoster

Caused by the herpes zoster virus, shingles is a resurgence of the chicken pox virus at some point in adulthood. This virus causes extremely painful rashes around the eye and can cause lesions to form on the cornea. Herpes Zoster is managed by antiviral medications. Steroid eyedrops are needed if the eye is involved. Shingles can occur in anyone who has had the chicken pox but most often occurs with immune compromised patients or those, who are over the age of 80.

Disease Symptoms

Some eye diseases cause very specific symptoms such as lesions or sores that are clearly visible on the cornea. Other problems may not be as obvious to the untrained eye but do cause noticeable symptoms. All of the followings are potential symptoms of eye diseases and problems warranting a trip to your eye doctor:

  • Pain
  • Blurred visions
  • Watering, teary eyes that persist for more than a few minutes
  • Eye redness
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Discharge

Disease Prevention

While it is impossible to prevent most eye dystrophy and degeneration issues, eye diseases are often preventable. If you are over 50 and have had the chicken pox, you are a good candidate for the shingle's vaccine, which can prevent a shingles outbreak and the related eye problems. You can also protect against eye disease by limiting your contact with those you know have an eye infection and refusing to share eye makeup, contact lens cleaner, contact cases, or eye drops with anyone. Always wear safety glasses when participating in activities that could cause eye damage or scratches, even if you are the only one who does so and you feel self-conscious. If you wear contact lenses, keep them clean and wear disposables for no longer than recommended period of use.

If you think you may be suffering from one of these corneal diseases, it is important to see your ophthalmologist right away. Only your doctor can tell you if you are experiencing an eye disease or have a more serious degenerative problem. Either way, early treatment, and intervention can save your eyesight and have you feeling more comfortable as soon as possible.