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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Vernal keratoconjunctivitis

Other Names for this Disease
  • VKC
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What is vernal keratoconjunctivitis?

How might vernal keratoconjunctivitis be treated?

What is vernal keratoconjunctivitis?

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) is a chronic, severe allergy that affects the surfaces of the eyes. It most commonly occurs in boys living in warm, dry climates. Attacks associated with VKC are common in the spring (hence the name "vernal") and summer but often reoccur in the winter.[1][2] Signs and symptoms usually begin before 10 years of age and may include hard, cobblestone-like bumps (papillae) on the upper eyelid; sensitivity to light; redness; sticky mucus discharge; and involuntary blinking or spasms of the eyelid (blepharospasm).[1][2] The condition usually subsides at the onset of puberty. It is caused by a hypersensitivity (allergic reaction) to airborne-allergens.[2] Management focuses on preventing "flare ups" and relieving the symptoms of the condition.[2]
Last updated: 12/7/2011

How might vernal keratoconjunctivitis be treated?

Management of vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) focuses on preventing allergic attacks as well as relieving the signs and symptoms of the condition. It is often recommended that affected individuals try to avoid the agent that causes the allergy (if possible); wear dark sunglasses in the daytime; avoid dust; and stay inside on hot afternoons. Eye drops that affect the amount of histamine released by immune system cells (called mast cell stabilizers) may be used at the beginning of the season or at the first sign of a "flare-up" to prevent severe symptoms; however, they are not considered effective at relieving symptoms. Topical eye drops are generally preferred as the first source of treatment. Cold compresses, artificial tears, ointments and/or topical antihistamines may help. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may relieve symptoms in moderate cases; topical steroids are typically only used for more severe cases because long-term use can cause glaucoma.[2]

A few prescription drugs may also be available for the treatment of VKC; these include cromolyn sodium, lodoxamide tromethamine and Levocabastine. Oral administration of montelukast, a drug usually prescribed for asthma, has also been shown to be an effective treatment of VKC.[2] For more information about these drugs and their availability, individuals should speak with their health care providers.
Last updated: 12/7/2011

  1. Pedram Hamrah, Reza Dana. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis. UpToDate. 2011;
  2. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis. NORD. August 25, 2011; Accessed 12/7/2011.