Superficial Punctate Keratitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Superficial punctate keratitis is an eye condition that results from the death of small groups of cells on the cornea. In this lesson, you will learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for superficial punctate keratitis.

Superficial Punctate Keratitis

Julia is a 24-year-old elementary school teacher who loves to go boating. Over a sunny three-day weekend, Julia spends every day on her boat, enjoying the sunshine. Much to her regret, Julia did not wear enough sunscreen and got a pretty bad sunburn on her face, shoulders, and back. However, these were not the only places that got burned by the sun's rays.

When she returned to school on Tuesday, Julia noticed her eyes were very red and watery and her vision became very blurry. Worried about these symptoms, Julie went to see her doctor to get checked out. After running several tests, the doctor told Julia that she had superficial punctate keratitis, but not to worry because the condition almost always goes away.

Superficial punctate keratitis is an eye condition that results from the death of small groups of cells on the cornea, which is the clear layer located at the front of the eye.

The cornea is the clear layer located at the front of the eye.

Superficial Punctate Keratitis: Causes

There are many different causes of superficial punctate keratitis. Most involve damage or irritation to the cornea of the eye. For example, when:

  • contact lenses are worn for too long
  • the eyes are overexposed to the sun
  • chemicals or other strong substances get into the eyes
  • eyes become severely dry,
  • eyes become infected by viruses or bacteria

All these causes can damage the cells of the cornea and lead to superficial punctate keratitis.

Overexposure of the eyes to sunlight is one cause of superficial punctate keratitis.

Superficial Punctate Keratitis: Symptoms

The symptoms of superficial punctate keratitis include:

  • Red eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Eye sensitivity to light
  • Burning sensation in the eye

Red eyes are a common symptom of superficial punctate keratitis.
red eyes

Superficial Punctate Keratitis: Treatment

The good news about superficial punctate keratitis is that people usually fully recover from this condition. The word 'superficial' can help you remember this (as opposed to something like 'severe'). The specific treatment depends on the cause. Superficial punctate keratitis caused by a bacterial infection can be treated using antibiotics that will kill the bacteria that caused the condition.

When the condition is caused by dry eyes, sunlight, contact lenses, or another irritant, it can usually be treated with eye drops that reduce redness, pain, and dryness of the eyes.

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