Corneal anesthetic abuse and Candida keratitis

Ophthalmology. 1996 Jan;103(1):37-40. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(96)30735-5.


Purpose: Topical corneal anesthetic abuse is a self-inflicted injury, causing profound corneal morbidity. Superimposed infection is an important complicating factor. The authors report four patients with confirmed topical anesthetic abuse of the cornea, in whom Candida keratitis developed.

Methods: A retrospective review of the medical records of four patients with confirmed topical corneal anesthetic abuse and fungal keratitis.

Results: A 21-year-old woman, two 28-year-old women, and a 35-year-old man were included in the study. All these patients sustained a corneal injury, prompting the chronic use of topical anesthetics (0.5% proparacaine hydrochloride in 3 patients, and 0.5% tetracaine hydrochloride and 0.4% benoxinate hydrochloride in the other). Corneal findings included epithelial defects in all patients, focal infiltrate in one patient, and ring-shaped stromal infiltrate in three patients. Topical anesthetic was discontinued, all patients initially were treated empirically with antibacterial agents, and three patients received topical corticosteroids. Subsequent corneal cultures grew Candida spp, Candida albicans specifically in three patients, and local and systemic antifungal therapy was started. Corneas in two patients re-epithelialized; a conjunctival flap was performed on another patient with a descemetocele; and the remaining patient was lost to follow-up, although repeat fungal cultures yielded no growth.

Conclusions: Corneal superinfection with Candida may occur during topical anesthetic abuse. Therapy includes discontinuation of the anesthetic and institution of antifungal therapy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Anesthetics, Local / adverse effects*
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Candida albicans / isolation & purification
  • Candidiasis / drug therapy
  • Candidiasis / etiology*
  • Candidiasis / pathology
  • Cornea / drug effects*
  • Cornea / microbiology
  • Corneal Injuries
  • Eye Infections, Fungal / drug therapy
  • Eye Infections, Fungal / etiology*
  • Eye Infections, Fungal / pathology
  • Eye Injuries / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratitis / drug therapy
  • Keratitis / microbiology*
  • Keratitis / pathology
  • Male
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Procaine / adverse effects
  • Procaine / analogs & derivatives
  • Propoxycaine / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Medication / adverse effects
  • Tetracaine / adverse effects
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / drug therapy


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Tetracaine
  • Procaine
  • benoxinate
  • proxymetacaine
  • Propoxycaine