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A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea. It causes severe, painful symptoms and requires immediate medical attention to prevent the injury from worsening.


Corneal ulcers cause intense, debilitating symptoms. If you’re diagnosed with this condition, you can expect:

  • Red, swollen eyes
  • Pus and eye drainage
  • A sensation that something is in your eye
  • A visible white spot if the ulcer is very large
  • Severe pain, particularly when looking at bright lights

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, don’t hesitate to make an eye doctor appointment the very same day. In the meantime, remove your contact lenses immediately, apply a cool compress and avoid rubbing your eyes. If the pain is unbearable, take an over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.



The majority of corneal ulcers are caused by infections. Bacterial infections are a common cause, and people who wear contact lenses are at a higher risk for this form of corneal ulcer. Viral infections, such as the herpes simplex virus and the varicella virus (the virus behind the chickenpox and shingles) can also cause the condition. Though unusual, fungal infections can occasionally lead to corneal ulcers as well.


Tiny tears on the cornea due to trauma, scratches or particles in the eye result in damage that may make it easier for bacteria to cause an ulcer. Chemical burns can also injure the cornea, resulting in an ulcer.

Improper contact lens use

If you wear contact lenses, you’re at a heightened risk of corneal ulcers, especially if you wear them overnight. Extended use can scratch the surface of your cornea, trap particles of dirt, and introduce harmful bacteria, resulting in corneal ulcers. In addition, extended use can prevent oxygen from reaching the cornea, increasing its susceptibility to infection.

Treatment options

Dr. Benjamin and Dr. Golchet will be able to tell very quickly if you have a corneal ulcer, simply by examining your eyes with a slit lamp, which is a special microscope. Once your diagnosis is confirmed, they will begin treating the underlying cause and restoring your optimal eye health. If they suspect that an infection is behind your ulcer, they will obtain samples from your eye. Based on the results of this examination, they will prescribe antibiotic eye drops, along with oral medication to control the pain.

In very advanced cases, the condition will not respond to medication and the ulcer may threaten to perforate the cornea. In these cases, a corneal transplant will likely be necessary. During the procedure, Dr. Benjamin or Dr. Golchet will cut through the cornea to remove the damaged tissue. They will then fit and place the donor cornea in the opening, before stitching it into place and completing the surgery.

Schedule your appointment today

A corneal ulcer is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention.

If you’re experiencing a dramatic change in vision, severe pain and/or obvious discharge, contact our Los Angeles office immediately for an appointment. Left untreated, corneal ulcers can worsen very rapidly, so it’s important to be seen by Dr. Benjamin or Dr. Golchet as soon as possible.

Hear From Our Patients

Benjamin Eye Institute

147 reviews

  • Photo of Doe G.
    Doe G.
    Los Angeles, CA
    0 friends
    6 reviews
    1 photo

    Wow! I just had surgery by Dr. Benjamin  yesterday. Today I have 20-20, in that eye. Painless & perfect. I had no Idea, what I had been missing.
    Wonderful eye institute. Delightful & very efficient & up to date staff. Especially Myka. Treat yourself to good eye sight by the charming Dr. Benjamin. You will be in good hands.

  • Matt P.
    West Hollywood, CA
    214 friends
    31 reviews
    3 photos

    I have had dry eyes for a quite sometime and had seen several physicians and got eye drops etc but not until I have seen  Dr. Benjamin I found how serious problem that it was. I had the most thorough and individual attention by Dr. Benjamin. He explained to me my problem and treatment options available. Dr. Benjamin and His staff  are very caring and they spend as much time with you as needed and one feels taken care of. I was given state of the art treatment for my dry eyes and my eyes went from feeling tired , red , scratchy and itchy to brilliantly glowing clear. Office is very serene and staff is attentive, pleasant and smiling. Dr. Benjamin is very down to earth and explains thoroughly that one understands what alis them. I will definitely  keep coming back for all my eye issues.

  • Photo of Renee T.
    Renee T.
    Los Angeles, CA
    33 friends
    44 reviews
    29 photos

    I wish I had come to Dr. Benjamin years ago!!!

    I have been hopping around between 3 eye doctors in the last few years complaining of severe eye pain, redness - so bad I haven't been able to wear contacts for a year. Every other doctor made a diagnosis in 2 minutes, prescribed a few things and sent me on my way. Nothing helped and the doctors kept saying my eyes looked fine despite my symptoms. Finally I saw Dr. Benjamin, and he listened to my concerns from top to bottom and did tests the other doctors never did! He made a brand new diagnosis which finally makes sense and fits my symptoms. He spent almost an hour with me which is unbelievable. I am so impressed with this place, even the front desk and other staff were so friendly. I'm so relieved and am looking forward to making a recovery with Dr. Benjamin and eventually getting LASIK.

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