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What is Fungal Keratitis?

Fungal keratitis is an infection of the cornea, the clear dome covering the iris and pupil. It causes pain, reduced vision, light sensitivity and tearing, or discharge from the eye.

Keratitis is a general term meaning any inflammation of the cornea. The term “fungal keratitis” refers to a corneal infection caused by fungi.

Fungal Keratitis Causes

Fusaria are fungi that grow on plants, in water and can be found in dirt and soil. While these fungi can be found worldwide, they are more prominent in warmer regions.

Fungal keratitis most often occurs when the eye is exposed to the Fusaria fungi through swimming, showering or cleaning contact lenses in infected water. Other means of contact include improperly washing your hands or getting infected dirt in your eye when the cornea is scratched or injured.

Symptoms of Fungal Keratitis

Fungal keratitis symptoms may appear suddenly and can lead to vision problems or blindness. Symptoms may include sudden eye pain and decreased vision, sensitivity to light, excessive tear production, and mucus discharge.

Potential complications of keratitis include chronic corneal infections and inflammation, corneal tearing and open sores or sudden temporary or permanent vision loss. 

Risk Factors for Fungal Keratitis

Many factors may put a person at risk for fungal keratitis.

Wearing Contact Lenses

Contact wearers are most at risk if they do not practice proper contact lens handling and care. It is important to properly clean, disinfect and store your contacts. Wearing them too long may cause dirt and other foreign objects to become trapped between the lens and your eye, putting you at risk for fungal Keratitis. Never wear your contacts in the shower, or while swimming or soaking in a hot tub. Contacts worn during these activities may cause small abrasions on the eye’s surface, making it easy for fungi to enter.

Immune Deficiency Disorders

Certain immune deficiencies such as those caused by certain diseases or medications may put you at higher risk of developing this eye condition.

Geographic Location

Fungi tend to thrive in warmer climates; if you live in a warm, muggy area you are more likely to be exposed to fungal Keratitis than people who live in cooler regions.

Using Corticosteroid Eye Drops

Corticosteroid eye drops are used to suppress the body’s natural defensive mechanisms in order to treat certain eye conditions.  However, this medicine’s action can potentially stop your eye from fighting off fungal Keratitis.

Eye Injury

If your eye has been scratched or scraped, fungi may find their way into the injury, resulting in this infection.

Diagnosis of Fungal Keratitis

Your eye doctor will typically ask you to answer a series of questions about your eye health and medical history. This gives your doctor a basic idea of whether you have had any prior fungal infections. It also determines which areas of your eye may need to be examined first.

During the physical eye exam, your doctor may use a lighted tool called a slit lamp to carefully check your cornea. The slit lamp is a microscope that magnifies different areas of the cornea and the surface of the eye, so that both can be examined thoroughly. The doctor may use an eye drop infused with a special dye to help illuminate areas of concern.

If Fungal Keratitis is suspected, a swab culture and blood test may be taken and sent off for testing, to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Fungal Keratitis

Treatment of mild to moderate forms of keratitis may involve prescription eye drops, oral medication, or intravenous injections. Steroidal eye drops may be used to reduce inflammation and discomfort.

Corneal transplant or other surgical measures may be necessary for more severe forms of keratitis. In some cases, corneal surgery will not restore vision, which may result in permanent vision impairment. 

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