Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis (VKC)

What Is Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis?

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) is a recurrent ocular inflammatory disease that occurs seasonally. A rare condition most commonly found in men between the ages of 3 and 20 years, VKC accounts for roughly 0.1 to 0.5 percent of ocular disease. The disease also affects children and young adults and tends to occur more frequently in dry, warm climates. Some people experience symptoms year round; however, the peak season for VKC is between April and August. VKC is characterized by hard, elevated, cobblestone like bumps on the upper eyelid. There may also be swelling and thickening of the conjunctiva.  Severe cases manifest corneal ulcers that may lead to scars if they do not


  • Sensitivity to light
  • Intense itching
  • Mucous discharge

The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have vernal keratoconjunctivitis. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.


There is often a strong family history of allergies in patients with VKC. 

Risk Factors

  • Family history of allergies
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Men are more likely to have VKC than women

Tests and Diagnosis

Vernal conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed by a thorough clinical exam and history.

Treatment and Drugs

A category of therapeutics known as mast cell stabilizers are specifically approved for treatment of VKC, and have been shown to be effective in reducing itching, hyperemia, and mucous discharge. In severe cases, they may be used along with mild corticosteroids. Often patients with severe VKC have asthmatic manifestations and their eyes may improve while on steroids or theophylline for the asthma. The use of topical antihistamines may also help alleviate the ocular itching associated with this condition.

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Reviewed by Jill E. Bixler, M.D.