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It is possible that the main title of the report Keratomalacia is not the name you expected.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Keratomalacia is an eye (ocular) condition, usually affecting both eyes (bilateral), that results from severe deficiency of vitamin A. That deficiency may be dietary (i.e., intake) or metabolic (i.e., absorption). Vitamin A is essential for normal vision as well as proper bone growth, healthy skin, and protection of the mucous membranes of the digestive, respiratory, and urinary tracts against infection.

Early symptoms may include poor vision at night or in dim light (night blindness) and extreme dryness of the eyes (i.e., xerophthalmia), followed by wrinkling, progressive cloudiness, and increasing softening of the corneas (i.e., keratomalacia). With advancing vitamin A deficiency, dry, "foamy," silver-gray deposits (Bitot spots) may appear on the delicate membranes covering the whites of the eyes. Without adequate treatment, increasing softening of the corneas may lead to corneal infection, rupture (perforation), and degenerative tissue changes, resulting in blindness. In addition, in some cases, vitamin A deficiency may have additional effects, particularly during infancy and childhood.

In some developing countries, vitamin A deficiency in the diet and associated keratomalacia are a major cause of childhood blindness. In such regions, vitamin A deficiency often occurs as part of nonselective general malnutrition in infants and young children. Although rare in developed countries, vitamin A deficiency and keratomalacia may occur secondary to conditions associated with impaired absorption, storage, or transport of vitamin A, such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, cystic fibrosis, liver disease, or intestinal bypass surgery and any condition that affects absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Supporting Organizations

Blind Children's Center

4120 Marathon Street
Los Angeles, CA 90029-3584
Tel: (323)664-2153
Fax: (323)665-3828
Tel: (800)222-3566

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311

NIH/National Eye Institute

31 Center Dr
MSC 2510
Bethesda, MD 20892-2510
United States
Tel: (301)496-5248
Fax: (301)402-1065

NIH/National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney Diseases

Office of Communications & Public Liaison
Bldg 31, Rm 9A06
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560
Tel: (301)496-3583

Prevent Blindness America

211 West Wacker Drive
Suite 1700
Chicago, IL 60606
Tel: (312)363-6001
Fax: (312)363-6052
Tel: (800)331-2020

World Health Organization (WHO)

Avenue Appia 20
Geneva 27, 1211
Tel: 41227912111
Fax: 41227913111

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). For a full-text version of this report, go to and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report.

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

Last Updated:  4/21/2008
Copyright  2003 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.