Cloudy cornea

Definition

A cloudy cornea is a loss of transparency of the cornea.

Alternative Names

Corneal opacification; Corneal edema

Considerations

Common Causes

The cornea is normally a nearly invisible, clear structure covering the iris of the eye. Its two purposes are to transmit and focus the light entering the eye.

Causes of cloudy cornea include:

  • Chemical burns to the cornea
  • Herpetic keratoconjunctivitis (a form of conjunctivitis caused by herpes simplex)
  • Infectious diseases
  • Poor nutrition
  • River blindness (onchocerciasis -- an infection common in parts of Africa)
  • Several rare inherited diseases involving abnormal metabolism
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Trachoma
  • Trauma
  • Vitamin A deficiency

Clouding leads to varying degrees of vision loss.

Home Care

Consult your health care provider. There is no appropriate home care.

Call your health care provider if

Contact your health care provider if:

  • The outer surface of the eye appears cloudy
  • You have trouble with your vision

Note: It is appropriate to see an ophthalmologist for vision or eye problems. However, your primary health care provider may also be involved if a whole-body (systemic) disease is suspected.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will examine your eyes and ask questions about your medical history.

Questions may include:

  • Did the cornea become cloudy quickly, or did it develop slowly?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does it affect both eyes?
  • Is there any history of injury to the eye?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • Do you have any trouble with your vision?
  • If so, what type (blurring, reduced vision, or other) and how much?

Tests may include:

  • Biopsy of lid tissue
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Special photographs to measure the cells of the cornea
  • Standard eye exam
  • Ultrasound to measure corneal thickness

References

Crouch ER Jr, Crouch ER, Grant T. Ophthalmology. In: Rakel RE. Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 53.

Sharma R, Brunette DD. Ophthalmology. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 69.

Newlin AC, Wadia H, Sugar J. Corneal and external eye manifestations of systemic disease. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.25.