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Keratitis in Children

What is keratitis?

Keratitis is an inflammation or infection of the cornea of the eye. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye.

What causes keratitis?

Keratitis can happen for many reasons. The following are some common causes of the condition:

  • Bacteria
  • Not having enough vitamin A
  • Viruses
  • Trauma. This may result from an object being inserted into your child’s eye.  
  • Fungi
  • Parasites

Who is at risk for keratitis?

Children are more likely to get keratitis if they wear contact lenses. Your child’s risk may be higher if he or she doesn’t clean the lenses well. Touching the lenses with dirty hands or putting the lenses on dirty surfaces may also increase your child’s risk.

What are the symptoms of keratitis?

Symptoms can happen a bit differently in each child. The can include:

  • Pain and redness in the eye
  • Discomfort when your child looks at a light (photophobia)
  • Tearing, watery eyes
  • Discharge coming from the eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling like there’s something is in the eye

The symptoms of this health problem may be similar to symptoms of other conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is keratitis diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask you about your child’s health history. He or she will also give your child an exam.

In some cases, your child’s healthcare provider may take a sample of your child’s eye drainage. He or she will then test this sample. These results may tell the cause of the eye infection.

How is keratitis treated?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Your child’s healthcare provider may refer him or her to an ophthalmologist or optometrist. These are healthcare providers with special training to diagnose treat eye problems. 

What are the complications of keratitis?

This condition is a medical emergency. In severe cases, it may lead to blindness.

Key points about keratitis

  • Keratitis is an inflammation or infection of the cornea of the eye.
  • Wearing contact lenses is a risk factor for this issue. Your child’s risk may be higher if he or she doesn’t clean the lenses well.
  • To diagnose this problem, your child’s healthcare provider will ask you about your child’s health history. He or she will also give your child an exam.
  • Your child may need to see an eye healthcare provider for treatment.
  • This condition is a medical emergency. In severe cases, it may lead to blindness.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Medical Reviewer: Griggs, Paul B., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Taylor, Wanda, RN, Ph.D.
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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