Corneal Opacity

Corneal opacity is a disorder of the cornea. The cornea is the transparent structure on the front of the eyeball. Corneal opacity occurs when the cornea becomes scarred. This stops light from passing through the cornea to the retina and may cause the cornea to appear white or clouded over.

Common causes include Infection, injury, corneal abrasion or scratch or swelling of the eye. 

Risk Factors  

Factors that may increase your chance of corneal opacity:

  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Measles — when measles result in scarring/infection of the eye
  • Foreign bodies striking the eye
  • Eye injury, whether from a force, such as a poke in the eye, or from a chemical agent
  • 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, can increase the risk of eye infections and also the chance of developing corneal opacity.
  • Keratoconus
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Congenital corneal abnormalities

Do You Have Corneal Opacity?  

You might, if you feel:

  • Vision decrease or loss
  • Pain or a feeling like there is something in your eye
  • Eye redness, excessive tearing, or light sensitivity
  • Area on the eye that appears cloudy, milky or is not completely transparent

To diagnose your condition, your doctor may put drops in your eyes to numb them and to dilate your pupils. Your doctor will use a specialized microscope to focus a high powered beam of light into your eye to examine the cornea and other structures in your eye.

Treating Corneal Opacity

Treatments vary depending on the most likely cause and severity of the scarring. Options include:

  • Eye drops containing antibiotics, steroids or both
  • Oral medications
  • Phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK), laser surgery
  • Cornea transplant


To help reduce your chance of corneal opacity:

  • Take care to avoid injuring the eye. Wear eye protection during any potentially dangerous activity. Make sure safety goggles are worn tight against the face, otherwise a foreign body can fly up under the goggles and injure the eye.
  • Take proper care of contact lenses. Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding wear and cleaning them.
  • See your doctor right away if you think you have an eye infection, if you injured your eye, or if you develop any pain or change in vision.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.