What Causes Corneal Opacity?

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  • Written By: Teresa Shaw
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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Corneal opacity occurs when the cornea becomes scarred by injury or infection. Scarring prevents light being able to pass through the cornea where it would normally be bent and focused through the iris onto the retina, causing vision degradation and loss. Corneal disorders like corneal opacity affect both humans and animals, most notably cattle.

The cornea is the thin transparent tissue that covers the surface of the eye. It has two jobs: to protect the eye from dirt, debris, and germs, and to let in and bend light. It actually is responsible for more than half the eye's ability to focus. Though the cornea is very thin, it has five layers. Damage any of the layers can cause corneal clouding.

One of the most common symptoms of corneal opacity is decreased vision or vision loss. A person may feel like there is something in his eye, even after flushing the eye and having someone look in it. He may also suffer light sensitivity and unexplained eye redness, as well as have an area on the eye that looks cloudy or milky.


There are several factors that increase the likelihood of developing corneal opacity. These include a vitamin A deficiency, measles, and viral infections including ocular or eye herpes, herpes zoster or shingles, and conjunctivitis or pink eye. Having an eye injury from a chemical or from something poking or hitting the eye, or wearing contact lenses too long or during the night can also increase a person's chances.

When corneal opacity is suspected, a physician will use a slit lamp, which focuses very bright light into a slit, to examine the numerous structures of the eye. Using a magnifying lens and eye drops that dilate the pupils and numb the eye, the doctor is able to check for foreign bodies, and corneal scarring. In most cases, corneal opacity can be treated by a doctor with oral medications or steroid and antibiotic eye drops. For more serious scarring, laser surgery is used to remove the scarring from the corneal surface. In the most severe cases, a cornea transplant may be needed.

To decrease the risk of corneal opacity, contact lens wearers should follow the guidelines established for use and care of their lenses. Individuals should wear eye protection whenever there is any risk of eye injury. All eye infections should receive immediate attention, and a doctor should be consulted any time anyone suffers an eye injury.


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Post 5

When corneal opacity becomes severe and the patient's corneas are so scarred, a corneal transplantation is the only option. My mom had to have this done as she got older, so I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about the procedure.

In this surgical procedure, parts of the diseased cornea is replaced by the tissue of a donor who has healthy corneal tissue. Most corneal transplants are a success and the patient gets his sight back.

There is always a need for eye donors for transplants and research. Get it written on your driver's license and tell your family. I am signed up to be an organ donor, and I feel good about it.

Post 4

Boy! Is it ever important that people take good care of their eyes. Sight is very precious. Some of the risk factors for corneal opacity can't be predicted or prevented - like some eye injuries and some infections or chemicals getting in your eyes.

You can prevent the possibility of corneal opacity by making sure you know how long you should wear your contacts lenses. If you are working with anything that could injure your eye, wear protective gear.

Keeping your immune system strong can help to make corneal opacity less likely to happen.

Post 3

@DeniseP - At first, I had to make my mom do it. I would lie down on the couch, she would tell me to look up so I couldn't see the dropper anymore, and then she would drop the liquid in the very bottom of my eye. It got easier, but I still don't love taking eyedrops by any means. Practice makes almost perfect in this case. Good luck!

Post 2

@Bgirl - I hate taking eyedrops! How did you get over it at first? I can never keep my eyes open and the drops end up rolling down my cheeks.

Post 1

I had scarring on my cornea in high school, and it ended up being a huge discomfort. My eyes were so sensitive to light, and I ended up having to use eyedrops every two hours. I would even have to set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night for eyedrops. It eventually got better, but my eyesight still isn't quite the same. On the plus side, I don't mind eyedrops anymore!

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