Fungal keratitis is a fungal infection of the cornea. If not treated promptly, this condition can lead to blindness. However, treatment options are available for individuals who see their doctor soon after the initial injury to the eye’s cornea. While some cases are mild, the consequences of a severe infection left untreated are serious and extremely difficult to treat. This condition is very dangerous and is affecting more and more people every year, especially in rural communities. In this article, we are going to find out more about fungal keratitis, its causes and symptoms, and how to treat it.
What Is Fungal Keratitis?
Simply speaking, fungal keratitis is a fungal infection that develops once the eye’s cornea has been injured. The type of fungus that causes this condition is commonly found in plant matter, so those who may have had contact with dirt, branches, or other sharp plant materials near their eyes are at a greater risk of developing the infection. Contact lens wearers are also at risk if their cornea is ever scratched by the edge of the lens, or is a Candida overgrowth is present.
While there are treatment options available for fungal keratitis, they are only effective if a patient sees their doctor before the fungal infection has spread throughout the eye. For this reason, it is extremely important for affected individuals to see an eye doctor immediately if they sustain an injury to the cornea. When caught early, some treatments can heal the eye’s injury and the fungal infection will fade. If it has already spread, then blindness may occur even with treatment.
Symptoms of Fungal Keratitis
- A sharp pain in the eye may occur suddenly. This typically indicates that your cornea has been scratched or damaged, allowing for the fungal infection to begin developing.
- You may notice that your eye is continuously watering. This is another sign that your cornea has been damaged. If watering doesn’t subside and is occurring in one eye rather than both, medical attention should be sought.
- As fungal keratitis begins developing, you may notice that the infected eye is more sensitive to lights.
- After the initial sharp pain of the cornea injury, a dull or throbbing pain may set into the eye and not subside. This is a clear indication of a festering infection that needs treatment.
- If allowed to develop for a prolonged period of time, you may notice a thick clear, white, or yellow discharge leaking from your eye. This is usually easiest to notice when waking up in the mornings. At this point, the fungal infection is spreading throughout the eye.
- One of the more severe symptoms of this condition is impaired vision. See your eye doctor immediately if you experience any or all of the above symptoms and are experiencing blurred vision.
Causes of Fungal Keratitis
The individuals at highest risk for developing fungal keratitis are those who are in frequent contact with plant matter. Because of this, people in rural communities are often the ones who develop the most severe cases. If an injury occurs in the eye’s cornea, a fungal infection can begin to develop if the eye comes into contact with any type of plant matter. For example, if an eye is injured by rubbing soil into it or if the cornea is scratched by a tree branch or plant, then the likelihood of fungal keratitis developing is much higher than in injuries that don’t involve plant matter.
Cont Lens Trauma
The second cause of Fungal Keratitis is trauma associated with contact lenses. While the most common fungus found on contact lenses is Candida, this fungus can begin to spread and cause fungal keratitis if not promptly treated. Those at highest risk for contracting the infection through contact lens wear are individuals who use their contact lenses for longer than the recommended time or who often fall asleep in their daily lenses. The fungus can spread quickly if any scratching of the cornea results from contact lens misuse.
Fungal Keratitis Treatment
Several different anti-fungal agents are currently used as treatments for Fungal Keratitis. Unfortunately, none of them have been completely effective in severe cases. They are most commonly given in the form of eye drops. However, some situations call for them to be taken orally or even given as injections. Natamycin eye drops are a commercially available eye medication that is typically used to fight Candida, so some eye doctors recommend it for its anti-fungal qualities. However, it is only effective on the top layer of the eye and produces no results in severe infections.
Currently, the only treatment option available for severe infections is surgery. The process typically involves a cornea graft. However, it is important to consider that the risk of infection increases after surgery. It may also worsen the original condition rather than treat it. The most current research on the subject finds that certain laser surgeries may be effective at treating fungal keratitis in the future.
The best thing that individuals can do for their eye health is to take preventative measures against fungal infections. It is always recommended to wear some form of protective eye wear when working with plant matter. Additionally, contact lens wearers should make sure that their lenses are properly cleaned. Never wear them more than the amount of time the ophthalmologist recommends you to.
Fungal keratitis is a dangerous and difficult-to-treat infection. Fortunately, this condition is fairly easy to prevent by wearing protective eye wear and taking care of contact lenses. Due to the severity of fungal infections of the eye and the risk of developing blindness, it is absolutely essential that individuals seek medical advice from their doctor as soon as they notice any symptoms.
If caught early enough, anti-fungal drops may keep the infection at bay until damage to the cornea is healed enough. Those who live in rural areas and are more susceptible to developing this dangerous infection; they should always take the proper precautions with their eye health.