Keratitis is the general medical term used to describe an inflammation that occurs in the cornea of the eye.
Corneal inflammations can be caused by various agents, notably bacterial, fungal or viral – but whatever the agent the cornea is going to present some quite nasty symptoms.
Keratomycosis is the name reserved for keratitis initiated by a fungus.
Symptoms of keratomycosis
• Blurred vision might not be painful, but it does cause serious concern
• Red or bloodshot eyes that are painful, especially in bright light
• A discharge might be experienced along with excess tears from the ducts
• The eyelids may swell up and the discharge may have a pus-like quality, sometimes referred to medically as “hypopyon”.
• Ulcers may develop on the cornea
Unfortunately the other types of keratitis caused by bacterial and viral infections often produce similar symptoms, so the examining optometrist or ophthalmologist needs to be able to eliminate the unlikely causes quickly to affect a treatment regime.
Severity of symptoms and laboratory culture and immunology test results usually allow for such a quick diagnosis.
What causes keratomycosis?
Quite simply – exposure to fungi!
The combination of wearing contact lenses and gardening causes many of the instances of the keratomycosis since soils, plant materials and dust from the many gardening additives applied for improved growth all harbour fungi, and contact lenses allow fungi to be trapped in what can be thought of as an ideal environment for their expansion.
As well as fungi it’s not unknown for yeast products to introduce a Candida type of keratomycosis.
What can be done to prevent keratomycosis?
There are quite a few easy procedures that can be adopted to minimise or even entirely remove the risk of sustaining a keratomycosis eye inflammation:
• When gardening or working in an agricultural environment, wear protective eyewear – typically the local hardware shop has an economical and “worker-friendly” range!
• Make sure any protective eyewear is well fitted to prevent ingress of dust, so covered side shields are important.
• If wearing contact lenses, especially those of an extended wear variety, then pay particular attention to hygiene. After a bout of keratomycosis it might be advisable to change the type of contact lenses to a type using a quicker turn around.
• It’s also thought that excessive use of steroid type eye drops may introduce a positive environment for keratomycosis, so their use could perhaps be limited.
How long is it going to take to clear up?
Unfortunately fungal infections grow at a very slow rate, and it seems the healing process can be likewise.
Depending on the type of fungus or Candida that first introduced the keratomycosis, a targeted regime of eye drops can be started; however it is essential that the eye care professional monitors the situation as in a worst case scenario surgical intervention in the form of a corneal transplant may be required.
If ulcers have formed then the healing process inevitably means more radical treatment and surgery, this time however it may be a fairly simple to introduce a flap or graft.
Such surgery would only be considered if other avenues of treatment – especially the wearing of hard contact lenses that reasonable vision have been tried.