We describe the clinical management of 6 patients who developed a chronic corneal epitheliopathy 1-18 years after commencing soft contact lens wear. All had a history of exposure to thiomersal in contact lens fluids. The corneal changes were characterised by epithelial haze and superficial stromal vascularisation which extended from the limbus towards the visual axis. Five patients were observed for a minimum of 18 months after stopping contact lens wear before undergoing limbal transplantation. A good result was obtained in 1 patient who had worn a contact lens in one eye only. Recurrent epithelial changes were observed on the recipient eyes of the remaining patients who had previously worn contact lenses bilaterally, and in 1 patient epithelial haze also developed adjacent to the donor site in the previously clinically normal donor eye. All 5 patients experienced an improvement in symptoms post-operatively but in 2 patients the visual acuity later deteriorated because of epithelial irregularity. The sixth patient has not had surgery. We conclude that limbal stem cell dysfunction in chronic contact-lens-associated epitheliopathy may be subclinical and that autograft transplantation in bilaterally exposed patients may fail to restore the epithelial phenotype of the host eye whilst jeopardising the epithelial integrity of the donor eye by depleting its stem cell reserve.