(Corneal Opacification, Cloudy Cornea)
Corneal opacity is a disorder of the cornea, the transparent covering of the eyeball, which can cause serious vision problems. 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.
There are many causes of corneal opacity. In some cases your doctor can recommend a treatment that will reverse the opacity and lessen your chances of needing additional treatment, such as surgery.
Infection, injury, or inflammation of the eye are the most common causes of corneal opacity.
The following factors increase your chances of developing corneal opacity. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Measles (when measles result in scarring/infection of the eye)
- Eye injury, whether from a force, such as a poke in the eye, or from a chemical agent
- Herpes simplex virus (which is easily transmitted to the eyes)
- Other infections, including conjunctivitis, or “pink eye”
- Additionally, wearing contact lenses for a long period of time can increase the risk of eye infections and therefore increase the chance of developing corneal opacity.
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to corneal opacity. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions as well. If you experience any one of them, see your eye doctor immediately.
- Vision decrease or loss
- Pain in the eye or feeling like there is “something in your eye”
- Area on the eye that appears cloudy, milky, or is not completely transparent
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, including illnesses and injuries, and perform a physical exam.
To prepare for a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor may put drops in your eyes to numb them and to dilate the pupils. Your doctor will use a slit lamp (specialized microscope) to focus a high powered beam of light into your eye to examine the cornea and other structures in your eye.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatments vary depending on the most likely cause of the scarring, and how severe the scarring is. Treatments may include:
- Eye drops containing antibiotics, steroids, or both
- Oral medications
In some cases, scar tissue may be removed surgically. The surgery is often performed using a laser; the surgery is called phototherapeutic keratectomy, or PTK. In more severe cases, a cornea transplant may be necessary.
To help reduce your chances of developing corneal opacity, take the following steps:
- Take care to avoid injuring the eye; wear eye protection during any potentially dangerous activity
- Take proper care of contact lenses and follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding wear and cleaning.
- See your doctor promptly if you suspect you have an eye infection, including conjunctivitis (pink eye), or if you injured your eye.