The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of topical retinoic acid (tretinoin) in the treatment of various stages of xerophthalmia caused by vitamin A deficiency. At the beginning of treatment, rabbits with similar disease in both eyes were given a normal diet and therapeutic doses (25,000 IU) of systemic vitamin A. One eye of each was treated with 0.1% retinoic acid in sesame oil one time per day. The other eye received sesame oil alone. Eyes with moderate disease (advanced keratinization and plaque formation) responded more quickly to topical retinoic acid (clear within three days) than did eyes treated with sesame oil (clear within seven days). No difference in time of response could be observed in corneas with milder or more severe disease (stromal infiltration and corneal vascularization).