Vernal conjunctivitis is long-term (chronic) swelling (inflammation) of the outer lining of the eyes. It is due to an allergic reaction.
- Burning eyes.
- Discomfort in bright light (photophobia).
- Itching eyes.
- The area around the cornea where the white of the eye and the cornea meet (limbus) may become rough and swollen.
- The inside of the eyelids (most often the upper ones) may become rough and covered with bumps and a white mucus.
- Watering eyes.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform an eye exam.
Avoid rubbing the eyes because this can irritate them more.
Cold compresses (a clean cloth soaked in cold water and then placed over the closed eyes) may be soothing.
Lubricating drops may also help soothe the eye.
If home-care measures do not help, you may need to be treated by your provider. Treatment may include:
- Antihistamine or anti-inflammatory drops that are placed into the eye
- Eye drops that prevent a type of white blood cell called mast cells from releasing histamine (may help prevent future attacks)
- Mild steroids that are applied directly to the surface of the eye (for severe reactions)
Recent research suggests that a mild form of cyclosporine, which is an anti-cancer drug, may be helpful for acute episodes. It may also help prevent recurrences.
The condition continues over time (is chronic). It gets worse during certain seasons of the year, most often in the spring and summer. Treatment may provide relief.
Complications may include:
- Continuing discomfort
- Reduced vision
- Scarring of cornea
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if your symptoms continue or get worse.
Using air conditioning or moving to a cooler climate may help prevent the problem from getting worse in the future.
Barney NP. Allergic and immunologic diseases of the eye. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 38.
Cho CB, Boguniewicz M, Sicherer SH. Occular allergies. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 172.
Rubenstein JB, Spektor T. Allergic conjunctivitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.7.
Yücel OE, Ulus ND. Efficacy and safety of topical cyclosporine A 0.05% in vernal keratoconjunctivitis. Singapore Med J. 2016;57(9):507-510. PMID: 26768065
Last reviewed on: 2/25/2020
Reviewed by: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.