Congenital corneal anesthesia

Surv Ophthalmol. 2007 Jan-Feb;52(1):50-60. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2006.10.004.


Congenital corneal anesthesia is a rare clinical entity that poses a diagnostic dilemma, particularly in the pediatric age group. The sensory deficit may be confined to the cornea, or extend to other divisions of the trigeminal nerve. The sensory deficit may occur as an isolated abnormality, as part of a complex neurological syndrome, or it may occur in association with multiple somatic abnormalities and congenital insensitivity to pain. This condition usually presents between the ages of 8 to 12 months. Poor vision, photophobia, conjunctival injection, and corneal ulceration in the absence of pain and distress in a child should alert the clinician to the possibility of anesthetic cornea. In the early stages of presentation, punctuate keratopathy is the main feature, which may progress to non-healing persistent corneal epithelial defects. This stage may progress to acute corneal lysis and perforation. In most patients, conservative approaches such as copious lubrication, prevention of self-harm and cautious use of bandage contact lenses are effective in preventing progressive corneal damage. Tarsorrhapy is effective in promoting epithelial healing and permanent lateral tarsorraphy may prevent further development of epithelial defects. Amniotic membrane graft may be considered in order to improve epithelial healing. Corneal grafts carry a poor prognosis. Accurate initial diagnosis, evaluation, and proper management are paramount to prevent visual loss due to long-term complications of corneal anesthesia. This review of the literature outlines the problems and approaches in diagnosis, evaluation, and management of this rare condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cornea / innervation
  • Corneal Diseases / congenital*
  • Corneal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Corneal Diseases / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / congenital*
  • Hypesthesia / diagnosis
  • Hypesthesia / therapy
  • Sensation Disorders / congenital
  • Trigeminal Nerve / abnormalities