Lifting the lid on Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis (VKC)
What is VKC?
Vernal keratoconjunctivitis, or VKC, is a form of allergic eye disease. The symptoms occur when children are exposed to environmental allergens like dust and pollen. These allergens cause an allergic reaction and inflammation on the front surface of the eye.
In mild cases of VKC this inflammation causes itching and redness. In more severe cases the surface under the top eye lid can become inflamed and swollen bumps (called papillae) can form. These are sometimes known as cobblestones because of their appearance. When the eye closes these can rub on the front of the eye causing pain and irritation.
Children with VKC often have other allergic conditions like asthma, eczema or food allergies. In most cases children grow out of VKC by the time they reach adulthood.
Managing VKC and its symptoms
When your child is first diagnosed with VKC it can feel overwhelming. There can be a lot of information to take in. You might feel unsure if what you are doing is the right thing. Over time this does get easier.
You get better at managing the condition and more in tune with your child’s symptoms and what they mean. Many parents also find as their child gets older they become better at telling you when there’s a problem.
Signs that your child might be having a flare up of VKC
- Droopy eye
- Discharge from the eye
- Sticky or watery eyes
- Soreness/itchiness when blinking
- Prolonged or unusual blinking
- Pressing on the eyes
- Difficulty opening eyes, especially
in the morning
- Difficulty going out in the light
- Blurred vision
Knowing when to see the ophthalmologist
Treatment of VKC needs to be a partnership between you, your child and the ophthalmologist. The more you tackle this all together the better. Agree a treatment plan together and discuss your role in making decisions about stepping up treatment.
Over time parents can learn how to manage and step up treatment themselves, but you need to agree with the ophthalmologist under what circumstances (e.g. a flare up or routine follow up appointments) they should see your child. If you are ever unsure what you should be doing then ask the ophthalmologist or another member of the healthcare team for help.
Keeping on top of treatment
Keeping on top of treatment is the key to living life with VKC. This can be easier said than done at times when life is busy or if your child has medications for other conditions. It is so important to make sure your child is having the treatment your doctor has given you. It’s a good idea to talk to them about it too – to help them understand why treatment is important for keeping their eyes healthy so they can keep doing the things they love.
Sam & Tracey's Story
Follow Tracey’s emotional 9 year journey, from her son Sam’s first terrifying anaphylactic shock at just 4 months old, and through her battle to get him the diagnosis and treatment needed for his multiple complex and life altering allergies.