Courtesy Joe ImholteEver had a corneal ulcer? Me either, until now. They pretty much are horrible. My eye hurts, I’m super sensitive to light, and I look like death warmed over. Since I have been diagnosed with one (and iritis too) I thought it would be good to learn a little about them. Come on! Learn along with me!
A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, the thin clear structure overlying the front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber (which is the space between the cornea and the iris). Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, and as a result helps the eye to focus, accounting for approximately 80% of the eye's optical power.
Iritis, which I am also lucky enough to have, is an inflammation of the iris, the circular, membrane in the eye that provides the eye its color and forms the pupil. The iris is made up of muscular fibers that control the amount of light entering the pupil. The iris accomplishes this task by making the pupil smaller in bright light and larger in low light.
As you can see by the picture, my iris is macked-up.
Lots of things can cause a corneal ulcer, from infections, to chronic dry eyes to chemical burns. I likely got mine, however, from my contacts. People like me who wear extended wear contact lenses are 10 times more likely to get a corneal ulcer than people who don’t. Contact lenses can cause corneal ulcers many ways. A scratch or dirt particle on the contact can scratch the eye, the contact can have bacteria on it causing an infection, and they can reduce oxygen flow making the eye in general more susceptible to infections.
Even though my contacts are extended wear, I take them out at night, and swap them out every two weeks. The pair I had in when this happened were less than two days out of the box, so I am guessing something got caught under them and I didn’t notice.
The iritis is a secondary problem that the corneal ulcer is causing.
Yesterday when I woke up my eye was dry, but that’s not uncommon in the morning and usually putting in your clean and moist contact helps that out, and I thought it would help. By the end of the day yesterday I was having trouble seeing under our office lights and folks were greeting me by saying, “oh hi Joe…oh my god what’s wrong with your eye?!” so I knew something was amiss. Most folks suggested it was pink eye, and since I have a 2-year old at home, that seemed reasonable.
When I got home yesterday, my wife wisely suggested I go to urgent care. I did, and was diagnosed with viral pink eye. I was given some over the counter eye drops and sent home.
I awoke multiple times in the night in pretty serious pain. So, this morning I had a follow up with an eye doctor and hence the new diagnosis.
Moral of my story? If you are having pain in your eyes, have them checked out. As my wife says, you only get two eyes, you’ve got to treat them like gold.