An infection of the cornea (the clear outer layer of the eye) by fungus is called fungal keratitis. It can cause a breakdown of the cornea, which is called a corneal ulcer. The ulcer can cause swelling and cloudiness of the cornea and a decrease in your vision.
There are several common types of fungi that cause infections:
These fungi cannot usually infect a healthy cornea. However when there are tiny breaks in the outermost layer of the cornea, these fungi can reach the cornea and cause an infection.
Anything that causes a break or scratch in the cornea can lead to a fungal infection, but you have a greater risk if you get a scratch on your eye from any plant matter. Improper use of contact lenses, such as failing to clean your contacts properly or sleeping in your contacts, can also increase the risk of a fungal infection.
Symptoms of fungal keratitis include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, examine your eyes, and do tests to identify the cause. Tests you may have are:
Fungal keratitis is a very severe condition and can be hard to treat. Your healthcare provider may first prescribe antibiotic drops. This is because it can take several days for tests to show what is causing the infection. When you are diagnosed with fungal keratitis, your provider will prescribe eye drops to treat fungal infections. You may need to use these eye drops every couple of hours, even during the night. You may also be given antifungal pills to take by mouth.
If not treated right away, fungal keratitis can cause blindness. You need to see your eye care provider often to make sure that the infection is getting better.
Fungal keratitis can lead to a permanent scar even after successful treatment. If this scar limits your vision, your provider may treat it with a contact lens, laser treatment, or surgery.
If you have any of the symptoms of a fungal infection after getting something in your eye, or if you wear contact lenses, contact your healthcare provider right away. If you are given drops to use, be sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions carefully and keep all of your follow-up appointments.