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Vernal conjunctivitis

Vernal conjunctivitis is long-term (chronic) swelling (inflammation) of the outer lining of the eyes. It is due to an allergic reaction.

Causes

Vernal conjunctivitis often occurs in people with a strong family history of allergies. These may include allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema. It is most common in young males, and most often occurs during the spring and summer.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Burning eyes.
  • Discomfort in bright light (photophobia).
  • Itching eyes.
  • The area around the cornea where the white of the eye and the cornea meet (limbus) may become rough and swollen.
  • The inside of the eyelids (most often the upper ones) may become rough and covered with bumps and a white mucus.
  • Watering eyes.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform an eye exam.

Treatment

Avoid rubbing the eyes because this can irritate them more.

Cold compresses (a clean cloth soaked in cold water and then placed over the closed eyes) may be soothing.

Lubricating drops may also help soothe the eye.

If home-care measures do not help, you may need to be treated by your provider. Treatment may include:

  • Antihistamine or anti-inflammatory drops that are placed into the eye
  • Eye drops that prevent a type of white blood cell called mast cells from releasing histamine (may help prevent future attacks)
  • Mild steroids that are applied directly to the surface of the eye (for severe reactions)

Recent research suggests that a mild form of cyclosporine, which is an anti-cancer drug, may be helpful for acute episodes. It may also help prevent recurrences.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The condition continues over time (is chronic). It gets worse during certain seasons of the year, most often in the spring and summer. Treatment may provide relief.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Continuing discomfort
  • Reduced vision
  • Scarring of cornea

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if your symptoms continue or get worse.

Prevention

Using air conditioning or moving to a cooler climate may help prevent the problem from getting worse in the future.

References

Barney NP, Cook EB, Stahl JL. Allergic and immunologic diseases of the eye. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 39.

Boguniewicz M, Cho CB, Sicherer SH. Occular allergies. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 147.

Hernandez-Trujillo V, Riley E, Rudnick C. Allergy. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 19.

Rubenstein JB, Tannan A. Allergic conjunctivitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 4.7.

Text only

  • Eye - illustration

    The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

    Eye

    illustration

  • Eye - illustration

    The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

    Eye

    illustration


 

Review Date: 3/6/2018

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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