Don't Wait. Get Help Now All calls 100% confidential and free

(617) 657-2877

Ulcerative Keratitis From Crack Cocaine Abuse

Ulcerative keratitis is a condition that leads to lesions in the eye that is often caused by crack cocaine use. There are other eye conditions the drug is linked to as well. Treatment for addiction may include detox and outpatient services.

The toxicology of crack cocaine has been shown to wreak havoc on many organs and functions in your body.

Aside from the pleasant, euphoric feelings it provides, many people who abuse crack cocaine experience unpleasant side effects and systemic medical complications.

One of the lesser talked-about side effects of crack cocaine toxicity is its affiliations with ocular issues, including ulcerative keratitis.

How Crack Cocaine Causes Ulcerative Keratitis

Ulcerative keratitis, a variety of inflammatory eye diseases that cause ulcers in the cornea, is a common side effect of crack cocaine that affects the eye’s anterior chamber.

This condition can affect the right eye or left eye individually, but it’s also possible for both eyes to develop cocaine-induced corneal ulcers, especially with crack cocaine use.

Though it may seem odd that this drug could cause such a condition, crack cocaine seems to damage tissues in the eye making you more susceptible to ulcerative keratitis.

There are a number of ways this condition can occur.

Contaminated Contact Lens

First and foremost, contact lens use can increase your risk of ulcerative keratitis. This is because bacteria can easily get trapped under the lens or in the solution.

Contact lens wear on top of crack cocaine use makes your risk of ulcerative keratitis unusually high.

Microbial Keratitis

Ulcerative keratitis can be caused by several microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This is known as microbial or infectious keratitis.

However, the most common causes of ulcerative keratitis are the bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa and staphylococcus aureus.

Another common viral cause of the condition is herpes simplex virus, which causes stromal keratitis.

Corneal Perforation

Corneal perforation is another risk factor for ulcerative keratitis. Simply put, corneal perforation is damage to the cornea caused by ocular injury or harm.

When the cornea is damaged, it’s much easier for the anterior eye area to become infected and develop ulcerative keratitis.

Candida Albicans

Another specific microorganism that can cause ulcerative keratitis is candida albicans. This is a type of fungus, specifically yeast.

When it comes in contact with your eyes, it can quickly cause ulcerative keratitis and put the health of your eye at risk.

Symptoms Of Ulcerative Keratitis

Ulcerative keratitis caused by crack cocaine use can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms and alter your visual acuity as it causes corneal edema, which is swelling in the cornea.

Epithelial Defects

The most prevalent symptom of ulcerative keratitis is epithelial defects. This refers to conditions that affect the anterior segment including corneal ulcers and loss of corneal sensation.

A corneal ulcer is basically a sore that affects the corneal epithelium or ocular surface. As you can imagine, this makes it much more susceptible to other dangers.

Eye Redness

Another symptom of ulcerative keratitis is eye redness and pain. This is because ulcerative keratitis causes inflammation which irritates the eye.

Blurred Vision

Perhaps one of the more disturbing symptoms of crack-induced ulcerative keratitis is blurred vision.

The condition can cause corneal scarring and ocular hypertension, both of which can lead to blurred vision.

Some case reports have shown that this scarring can lead to secondary glaucoma, which can eventually cause blindness.

Light Sensitivity

Lastly, ulcerative keratitis can cause light sensitivity, which is a retinal issue.

As the cornea typically protects the eye from light, any damage to this surface can make your eyes more sensitive to light.

Other Common Ophthalmic Conditions Caused By Crack Cocaine

Though ulcerative keratitis is an ophthalmic condition that can be caused by crack cocaine, there are a variety of other conditions the drug can create in the eye.


One common eye condition caused by crack is conjunctivitis, better known as pink eye. It causes redness, itching, pain, and crusting and is caused by inflammation from bacteria or a virus.


Keratopathy is another problem the use of crack cocaine can lead to. Keratopathy is a broad term, essentially a disease of the cornea, so it can present in a variety of ways.

“Crack Cornea”

Another term often heard in reference to crack use is “crack cornea” or “crack eye syndrome.” This term refers to a variety of disturbances to the cornea seen with crack cocaine abuse.

Again, this term describes a variety of corneal complications that can present differently in every person ranging from ulcers to blindness.


Lastly, nystagmus is another ophthalmic condition that is associated with crack cocaine. This condition causes repetitive and uncontrolled movements in the eye.

Nystagmus can cause blurred vision, loss of depth perception, and loss of balance or coordination.

Treatments For Ulcerative Keratitis

Though ulcerative keratitis can be damaging to your eyes, there are a few differential treatments.

It’s important to note that you’ll need to see an ophthalmology professional for the treatment of ulcerative keratitis and may have to follow up with them to see improvement.

Antibacterial Eye Drops

One treatment for ulcerative keratitis is antibacterial eye drops. This treatment can only be used in specific ulcerative keratitis cases, as it will only treat the condition if it’s caused by bacteria.

These eye drops essentially deliver antibiotics into the eye, killing the bacteria and allowing the eye to heal.

Cornea Transplant

Some case series have found that in severe ulcerative keratitis, the cornea may be too damaged to recover on its own. This can cause permanent vision impairment.

In these cases, you may need a cornea transplant, also known as keratoplasty. This procedure involves the surgical implantation of a donor cornea and allows your vision to return to normal.

The transplant is typically done under a local anesthetic, meaning you’re awake, but your eye is numb.

Antifungal Medication

For ulcerative keratitis not caused by bacteria, topical antifungal medication can be used. This treatment is used in cases caused by fungal infections such as yeast.

This medication kills the fungus, allowing the eye to heal and recover from ulcerative keratitis.

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Abuse

Ulcerative keratitis from crack cocaine abuse is just one of the many side effects of crack addiction. Finding treatment for crack addiction is the first step in making a healthy recovery.

It can be challenging to find the right addiction treatment for you, but there are countless options out there. For example, Bedrock Recovery Center in Massachusetts is a fantastic choice.

This top-notch, accredited facility offers treatment for all kinds of substance abuse.

We offer inpatient and outpatient services, medication-assisted treatment, detoxification assistance, support groups, therapy, recovery education, and more.

Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or your loved one are battling crack cocaine drug abuse, call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center to learn about our individualized, effective treatment plans.

Written by
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team

©2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.