What is Keratoconjunctivitis?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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There are several forms of keratoconjunctivitis; keratoconjunctivitis sicca, atopic keratoconjunctivitis, and vernal keratoconjunctivitis are among the most common. Each has a few distinct symptoms and methods of treatment. Some are more prevalent among adults, while others primarily affect children.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is also known as dry eye or a dryness of the cornea and the conjunctiva. Since the eyes are dry, there may be an insufficient production of tears and the eyes may be overly sensitive to light, causing them to itch and burn. Other symptoms include a pulling feeling on the eye, pressure behind the eye, and a sensation like there is something in the eye.

Certain activities make keratoconjunctivitis sicca worse. For example, typing on a computer, reading, watching TV, all reduce the rate that a person blinks and this can cause increased irritation to the eye. In addition, smoky, dusty, or drafty environments can also increase the symptoms; however, many people affected by the condition find that their symptoms improve if the environment is humid. In addition, using certain pharmaceuticals that have a drying effect, such as isotretinoin, tranquilizers, oral contraceptives, or diuretics may also cause a rise in symptoms.


With keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a person is unlikely to face total blindness. Sometimes affected individuals will have some blurry vision or severe eye irritation. In other cases, the dryness can cause the cornea to become thick and scarred or it can cause blood vessels to form over the cornea, thereby impairing the affected person’s vision. It is a treatable condition. Artificial tears can usually help decrease inflammation and dryness and certain ointments can be applied to eyes at night for additional lubrication.

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis, typically found in men between the ages of 30 to 50, is rarer; however, it is possible for an affected person to suffer from blindness. People who suffer from atopic keratoconjunctivitis usually have chronic dermatitis, asthma, or rhinitis. They also suffer from itching, tearing, burning, sensitivity to light, and discharge from the eyes that is not affected by the seasons. They may develop folds of the eyes that come from chronic eye rubbing and inflammation of the conjunctiva or cornea. There are ways to treat the condition, such as topical mast stabilizers, topical and oral antihistamines, steroids, and occasionally, surgery is recommended to reduce scarring and repair vision.

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis, a chronic inflammation of the eyes’ conjunctiva, is most common in children, particularly young boys. In fact, nearly 25% of every 2,250 children who visit the eye clinics in East Africa have the condition. Luckily, they symptoms usually go away by the time the children reach puberty. Symptoms include extreme itching, burning, irritation, and sensitivity to light. Many times the worst symptoms are brought on by seasonal allergies; so, the treatment is usually aimed at treating the allergies and alleviating the symptoms.


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