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Keratomalacia

(Xerotic Keratitis; Xerophthalmia)

By

Melvin I. Roat

, MD, FACS, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Topic Resources

Keratomalacia is an eye disorder that involves drying and clouding of the cornea (the clear layer in front of the iris and pupil) due to vitamin A deficiency in people with undernutrition.

An Inside Look at the Eye

An Inside Look at the Eye

Symptoms of Keratomalacia

The surface of the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white of the eye) and cornea dries, sometimes leading to corneal ulcers Corneal Ulcer A corneal ulcer is an eye infection that causes an open sore on the cornea (the clear layer in front of the iris and pupil). Contact lenses, injuries, disorders, drugs, and nutritional deficiencies... read more Corneal Ulcer and bacterial infections. The tear glands are also affected, resulting in an inadequate tear film and dry eyes. People with extreme eye dryness can develop foamy spots (Bitot spots) on the conjunctiva. Night blindness (poor vision in the dark) may develop because of the effects of vitamin A deficiency Vitamin A Deficiency Vitamin A deficiency can result from a diet low in vitamin A or an absorption or liver disorder. Night blindness is an early symptom. Blindness can eventually develop. The eyes, skin, and other... read more on the retina.

Diagnosis of Keratomalacia

  • A doctor's evaluation

The diagnosis of keratomalacia is based on the presence of a dry or ulcerated cornea in an undernourished person.

Treatment of Keratomalacia

  • Antibiotic eye drops or ointments

  • Treatment of vitamin A deficiency and improvement of diet

Antibiotic eye drops or ointments can help cure an infection, but correcting the vitamin A deficiency and undernutrition with an improved diet or supplements is also important.

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Test your knowledge

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus
Herpes zoster ophthalmicus is an infection of the eye caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This virus also causes chicken pox and shingles. Which of the following describes the mechanism by which herpes zoster ophthalmicus causes infection?
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