Corneal opacification

Alternative names
Cloudy cornea; Corneal edema

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

The cornea is normally a nearly invisible, transparent structure covering the iris of the eye. Its two purposes are to transmit and focus the light entering the eye. Certain metabolic diseases, trauma, infectious diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental situations may cause clouding of the cornea. Clouding results in varying degrees of visual loss.

Common Causes

  • Vitamin A deficiency (a leading cause of blindness in underdeveloped countries)  
  • Sjogren’s syndrome  
  • Alkali burns to the cornea  
  • Hurler’s syndrome  
  • Scheie syndrome  
  • Morquio syndrome  
  • Congenital rubella  
  • Trachoma  
  • Herpetic keratoconjunctivitis (a form of conjunctivitis caused by herpes simplex)

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

Call your health care provider if

  • The outer surface of the eye appears cloudy.  
  • There is trouble with the vision.

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

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting cloudy cornea in detail may include:

  • Did the cornea become cloudy rapidly, 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 are also present?  
  • Is there any trouble with the vision?  
  • If so, what type (blurring, reduced vision, or other) and how much?

Physical examination will include thorough examination of the eyes and vision.

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Standard eye exam  
  • Ophthalmoscopy  
  • Special instruments using ultrasound to measure corneal thickness.  
  • Special photographs to measure the cells of the cornea  
  • Biopsy of lid tissue  
  • Tests for suspected causes

After seeing your health care provider:
You may want to add a diagnosis related to cloudy cornea to your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.