Corneal Opacity

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The cornea is the clear lens of your eye. When it gets damaged or scarred the cornea can become opaque. This prevents light from passing through, negatively affecting your vision. When you look in the mirror, you may notice that your eye appears white or clouded over. This can be scary, but there are treatment options available.

Diagnosing Corneal Opacity

To diagnose your condition, your doctor may put drops in your eyes to numb them and to dilate your pupils. The doctor will then use a specialized microscope to examine the cornea and other eye structures.

Treating Corneal Opacity at UVA Health

Depending on how severe your corneal scarring is, there are several treatment options.

Mild cases may be treated with antibiotic or steroidal eye drops. Sometimes doctors will also use oral medications.

Doctors sometimes recommend a surgery called phototherapeutic keratectomy. Though it uses lasers, like LASIK, there are several differences between LASIK and PRK that makes PRK a better treatment option for corneal opacity.

In the most severe cases, your doctor may recommend a corneal transplant.

Causes and Risk Factors for Corneal Opacity

The most common causes include eye infection or injury. In particular, corneal abrasion can be a cause of corneal opacity. In some cases, eye swelling can also cause damage to the cornea that results in opacity. 

Some risk factors for corneal opacity include:

  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Measles — when measles results in scarring/infection of the eye
  • Eye injury, from physical or chemical sources
  • Herpes simplex virus — which can be transmitted to the eyes
  • Other infections, including conjunctivitis
  • Wearing contact lenses for a long period of time, especially overnight
  • Keratoconus
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Congenital corneal abnormalities

Do You Have Corneal Opacity?

For most people, the cloudy appearance of the cornea and accompanying vision loss are the main symptoms. In some cases, people may also notice some discomfort. This is usually described as feel like something is in the eye.

Other symptoms include:

  • Eye redness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Light sensitivity

Preventing Corneal Opacity

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely prevent injury and infection. But these are some steps you can take to reduce your chance of developing corneal opacity:

  • Wear eye protection during any potentially dangerous activity
  • Make sure safety goggles are worn tight against the face
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding contact care
  • If you injure your eye or have changes in vision or pain, see your eye doctor right away