Vernal conjunctivitis is long-term (chronic) swelling (inflammation) of the outer lining of the eyes. It is due to an allergic reaction.
Vernal conjunctivitis often occurs in people with a strong family history of allergies. These may include allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema. It is most common in young males, and most often occurs during the spring and summer.
- 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, Cook EB, Stahl JL. Allergic and immunologic diseases of the eye. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 39.
Boguniewicz M, Cho CB, Sicherer SH. Occular allergies. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 147.
Hernandez-Trujillo V, Riley E, Rudnick C. Allergy. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 19.
Rubenstein JB, Tannan A. Allergic conjunctivitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 4.7.
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.