Vernal conjunctivitis
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.

Definition

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

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform an eye exam.

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
Prevention

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

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.
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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if your symptoms continue or get worse.

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.

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.

ADAM QualityA.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

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. Call 9-1-1 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only—they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.