A phthisis bulbi is a small, shrunken, non-functional eye. The affected eye may have partial vision retained in some cases; though blindness with this disorder is very common. The condition may result from an eye disease, trauma or inflammation.

In phthisis bulbi, the eye has a scary and shrunken appearance. An eye ball may appear soft.

Alternative names

Phthisical globe

Causes & Risk factors 

Phthisis bulbi occurs as a result of trauma, accident, exposure to the radiation, tumour, eye infection or inflammation.The severity of the disorder depends upon the type and depth of injury.
The injury or trauma can be a puncture wound, severe eye infection, inflammation within the eye itself etc.
The damage to structures within the eye from any of the above mentioned causes can eventually lead to eye atrophy i.e. shrinking.
Symptoms & Signs 

The signs and symptoms of Phthisis bulbi are as listed as below:

  • Small and shrunken eye ball
  • Eye is in a distorted shape
  • Cornea may look scarred
  • Swelling in and around eye
  • Tender and painful eye
  • Early Cataracts

In case of an end-stage of phthisis bulbi, the retinal epithelium of the eye ball may undergo some bone formation. As a result the eye looks rough and bony.


The doctor examines the eye carefully. He/she will also try to elicit the history of eye trauma, tumour, infection, injury and so on. As mentioned before, the Phthisis bulbi is always a response of the eye to some eye changes, leading to the eye damage. 

Phthisis bulbi is characterized by a soft, shrunken eye. The presentation varies depending upon the severity and cause of the condition.

Biopsy of the affected eye: A histopathological study of a biopsy sample reveals the changes in the structure of an eye.

Computed Tomography (CT) scan: CT scan helps in studying the structural changes in the eye.

Prognosis of Phthisis bulbi is poor. The eye can become cancerous if left untreated.

Treatment Options 


If the patients suffer from loss of vision because of Phthisis bulbi; it cannot be corrected by any medical means.  The treatment is directed towards the pain relief.

Pain relief: An injection of alcohol is given just behind the eye ball to relieve the pain.


Enucleation: It is a surgical procedure, in which the affected eye is removed from the socket, leaving behind rest of the orbital contents intact.

Differential Diagnosis :

Tumours related to the eye like retinoblastoma, osteoma eye, oestrogenic sarcoma and uveal melanoma etc.
Blind eye, which is painful.
Age related calcific plaques.
Intraocular foreign implants.