Big Picture - Mycotic Keratitis
- Fungal keratitis is an infection of the cornea (the clear outer layer of the eyeball). It typically occurs when fungus gets into the eye as a result of injury or contact lens use.
- As the use of contact lenses increases, so does the prevalence of fungal keratitis eye disease in that population, particularly among contact wearers in developing countries.
- Without proper treatment, or if the patient has a compromised immune system, the disease can lead to vision impairment or even blindness. With proper treatment, in most cases the eye can make a full recovery.
Fungal eye infections can be dangerous. That was made clear to the American public in the spring of 2006. In April of that year, Bausch and Lomb issued a recall of contact lens solution that had been contaminated by the fungus Fusarium. More than 100 customers, mostly in Asia, had contracted a fungal eye infection after using the Bausch and Lomb solution. In that same week Congress debated the use of Fusarium as a means of killing drug crops.
Fungal keratitis is also known as “keramycosis.” Keramycosis
is a Latin term that is easy enough to translate if we know the two words
that are combined to form the word. “Keratitis” refers to an
inflammation of the cornea, and may be caused by bacteria, viruses, amoebae,
is the study of fungi. As the joined-together name suggests, keramycosis
is an inflammation of the cornea that is caused by a fungus. Several species
of fungus can contribute to this condition. They include aspergillus, fusarium,
candida, and several other species of fungus.
Aspergillus and Fusarium are the species of fungus that are most often involved in fungal keratitis.
Fungal keratitis is a dangerous and potentially blinding condition. This article includes information on how people can get the disease, how the disease affects the eye, how to treat the disease; and a brief description of those populations that are most vulnerable to the disease.
Over the course of history, people who suffered from fungal keratitis usually first suffered some sort of eye injury. Often that injury involved a thorn or other manner of plant matter. In recent years, fungi have found a new way to the eye through contact lenses. The eye is likely to be irritated or otherwise physically damaged prior to the introduction of the fungus.
If the fungus is present already in the eye, but not yet a cause of disease, fungal keratitis may be contracted after the use of eyedrops containing steroids, which may be prescribed for other eye conditions. If a fungus is present in the eye already, the steroids may increase the growth of the fungus and lead to fungal keratitis.
Fungal keratitis should be distinguished from keratitis caused by bacteria,
viruses, or amoebas. Treatment for those conditions is different, and physicians
may have difficulty determining the source of the keratitis.
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