Corneal ulceration

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Corneal Ulceration

Ulcerative Keratitis

Corneal ulceration occurs when there has been loss of the corneal epithelium and exposure of the underlying corneal stroma. It is common in horses and is a sight-threatening disease that requires prompt, early attention and aggressive accurate treatment.

The corneal epithelium of the horse serves as a barrier against invasion of potentially pathogenic bacteria or fungi normally present on the surface of the cornea and conjunctiva. A horse with a corneal ulceration can allow bacteria or fungi to potentially invade the cornea and cause a secondary infection.

Corneal ulcers can range from simple, superficial abrasions in the corneal epithelium to full-thickness corneal perforations with iris prolapse. However, no matter how small or superficial a corneal ulcer may be, it is still highly susceptible to infection and still requires quick, appropriate treatment. Corneal ulcers can be traumatic or non-traumatic, and may be sterile or infected (usually bacterial but sometimes fungal).

Corneal ulcers are detected during an eye exam through florescein staining.


Eye pain
Light sensitivity
Eye discharge
Watery eye
Corneal edema
Repeated rubbing of the eye
Slight droopiness of the eyelashes of the upper eyelid


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Eye exam
  • Laboratory tests



Topical antimicrobials
Topical atropine 1%
Anti-protease therapy
Systemic antimicrobial therapyMay be indicated in severe cases.


  • Minimize the dust in the environment
  • Avoid the use of hay nets in stalls
  • In trailers use a fly mask for protection if providing a hay net.


Prognosis for vision after an eye injury depends on the type and severity of the injury and whether adequate treatment can be provided. A routine superficial ulcer will often heal within a week.

Scientific Research

General Overviews

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Risk Factors

  • Exposure to high amounts of dust or hay
  • Eye trauma