Central Sterile Corneal Ulceration Treatment & Management

Updated: Jun 27, 2016
  • Author: Saadia Zohra Farooqui, MBBS; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy, Sr, MD  more...
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Medical Care

Individual treatment should be tailored toward the coconspirators that are identified by the history and physical examination. Again, the importance of first excluding infectious etiologies is paramount. Once identified, each contributing factor needs to be treated appropriately. All toxic drops should be eliminated if medicamentosa is suspected. Lagophthalmos should be treated with copious lubrication, with taping for variable amounts of time, beginning with sleeping hours. Tarsorrhaphy is indicated if previous method fails. Patients with sicca need copious lubrication and punctal plugs. Evaluate these patients for systemic rheumatologic disease if suspected by clinical history or examination. If immune disease is suspected, systemic immunomodulatory therapy may be necessary.

Treatment modalities are as follows:

  • Antibiotics are used to treat the ulcer or as a prophylactic but do encourage resistant microbial strains. Long-term use with certain antibiotics may cause medicamentosa, epitheliopathy, and crystal deposits. 
  • Immunomodulatory medications (eg, cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, methotrexate, azathioprine) are indicated if necessary. Topical cyclosporine A drops are being evaluated in clinical trials. 
  • Lubrication (eg, artificial tears) is recommended, but preservatives should be avoided.
  • For chemical burns, corticosteroids (ie, prednisone) are useful for reducing surface inflammation; however, after 10-14 days, collagen synthesis becomes important in the repair process. Prednisone may alter the balance of collagen synthesis versus degradation. Although they have weaker anti-inflammatory properties, progestational steroids (eg, medroxyprogesterone) demonstrate less suppression of collagen synthesis (wound repair). 
  • Medroxyprogesterone (eg, Provera)
  • Oral tetracycline or minocycline can be combined with topical tetracycline preparations or with other therapeutic modalities, such as topical antibiotics, cycloplegics, ocular hypotensives, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, and acetylcysteine. 
  • Use of vitamin A is investigational. Initial trials demonstrated clinical efficacy that was not replicated subsequently.
  • Although investigational, fibronectin has been shown to improve epithelialization in vitro; however, clinical trials did not demonstrate efficacy. 
  • Use of ascorbic acid/citrate for burns only is investigational.
  • Serum derived tears are under investigation.
  • Cell proliferation and trophic factors (eg, KGF, EGF, NGF) are investigational.
  • Recombinant human tumor necrosis factor receptor Fc fusion protein (etanercept) can be used in progressive disease or in cases that are unresponsive to traditional therapies. 
  • PAF receptor antagonists are under investigation.
  • Topical administration of NGF is under investigation.
  • Topical application of lecithinated SOD analog (PC-SOD) has proven to be beneficial.
  • Metalloproteinase inhibitors include the following:
    • Synthetic thiols
    • N-acetylcysteine
    • Cysteine
    • Sodium and calcium EDTA
    • Penicillamine
    • Tetracyclines
    • TIMPs
  • Punctal occlusion includes plugs/cautery.
  • A primary barrier method (eg, therapeutic soft contact lenses, scleral lenses, glued on contact lens) should be created and used. 
  • Tissue adhesives are best for impending or actual perforations that are 1 mm or smaller in size. They may be removed or allowed to extrude spontaneously after 6-8 weeks when a fibrovascular scar has formed and eliminated the risk of stromal ulceration. 
  • Amniotic membrane transplantation (alone or with ex vivo expansion or limbal stem cell transplantation)
  • Conjunctival flap/graft or Tenon-plasty (for reestablishment of limbal vascularization in alkali burns)
  • Tarsorrhaphy (temporary vs permanent lateral)
  • Corneal transplant (lamellar or penetrating) or tectonic graft (temporizing measure until graft bed is vascularized and arrests further ulceration) 
  • Mucous membrane grafting
  • Keratoprosthesis

Surgical Care

See Medical Care for possible surgical treatments



See the list below:

  • Corneal specialists
  • Neurologist or neuro-ophthalmologist for probable CNS neurotrophic etiology


Complications include corneal scarring, neovascularization, decreased vision, central corneal perforation, and endophthalmitis. Other possible complications include cataract, glaucoma, and blindness.



Patients should wear eye protection to prevent injury to the cornea, especially if the cornea is thin.



Prognosis depends on the severity of the condition and the patient response to therapy, in addition to associated local and systemic factors.