What is vernal keratoconjunctivitis?

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a form of allergic conjunctivitis that usually affects both eyes. The condition has a long-term course and associated to a family or personal history of other allergic ailments.

Risk factors

There are various factors that can make one likely to develop vernal keratoconjunctivitis.

  • Family history – a high percentage of individuals with the condition have other allergic conditions previously such as eczema, asthma or hay fever. Other family members of those with vernal keratoconjunctivitis might develop it as well.
  • Environment and season – those residing in warm tropical and temperate areas are likely to develop the condition than those in cooler areas. The condition is also common during the summer season.

    The symptoms are usually worse during warm weather and accompanied by nasal symptoms such as runny nose.

  • Age – the condition usually develops during childhood and adolescence and most common between the ages of 4-20 years old.
  • Gender – boys and young adults are likely to develop the condition

What are the indications?

Individuals with vernal keratoconjunctivitis typically experience itchiness and light sensitivity. The itchiness is generally severe than the other forms of allergic conjunctivitis.

There is also an uncomfortable sensation of a foreign object in the eye, drainage of mucus and twitching of the eyelid. In addition, drooping of the eyelid can occur due to the minor swelling beneath the eyelid.

The symptoms are usually worse during warm weather and accompanied by nasal symptoms such as runny nose.

Management of vernal keratoconjunctivitis

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis can be managed in various ways.

Home measures

  • Apply a cool compress over the eyes and use an air-conditioner to keep the environment cool. This is beneficial in cases that are aggravated by a warm environment.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching the eyes since this can worsen the inflammation.
  • Eye lubricants and eye drops that are refrigerated can greatly help in soothing the eyes.


Various medications are used to manage vernal keratoconjunctivitis. The drugs given is based on the severity of the symptoms. In most instances, the immediate symptoms can be controlled with a brief treatment regimen and followed by a long-term maintenance plan.

  • Decongestants – these are available in eye drops that work by keeping the small blood vessels constricted for relief.
  • Antihistamines – the topical variants and eye drops can provide brief relief to the itchiness and redness.
  • Mast cell stabilizers – work by stabilizing the mast cells in the eyes to prevent the release of histamine and other chemicals that triggers swelling and itchiness. These medications are usually given to prevent allergic eye reactions but could not provide immediate relief to the symptoms.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – the topical variants can be used to reduce the redness and itchiness. The drugs work by blocking the enzymes involved in releasing chemicals that contribute to allergy and inflammation.

Other medications that might be used include corticosteroids and cyclosporine. In some cases, a combination of steroids and antibiotics are beneficial if shield ulcers developed.


In some instances, surgery might be needed to manage vernal keratoconjunctivitis. Nevertheless, this is not a commonly used approach and only used if complications resulted to larger swellings or corneal ulcers that could not be managed with medications.