Purpose: To investigate whether conjunctival inflammation represents a primary event in the pathogenesis of keratoconjunctivitis sicca or whether it is a secondary inflammatory reaction caused by enhanced mechanical irritation as a result of surface dryness and whether anti-inflammatory drops (corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) have therapeutic effects and are similar.
Design: Single-masked, randomized, prospective clinical trial.
Methods: Thirty-two keratoconjuctivitis patients with or without Sjögren syndrome were included in the study. The patients were randomized to three groups. Group 1 patients received a topical artificial tear substitute (ATS); group 2 received ATS plus nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drops (NSAID); and group 3 received ATS plus topical corticosteroidal drops. The eye symptom severity scores, Schirmer test values, rose bengal and fluorescein staining scores were evaluated before treatment and 15 and 30 days after start of treatment. Impression cytology specimens were stained using immunohistochemical methods to detect the percentages of human leukocyte antigen II (HLA-DR) positive, Apo 2.7 positive, and periodic acid-Schiff positive cells. Statistical analyses were performed within and between groups. Group 3 patients had significantly lower symptom severity scores, fluorescein and rose bengal staining, and HLA-DR positive cells on days 15 and 30 compared with patients in other groups. They also had a significantly higher number of periodic acid-Schiff positive (goblet) cells in their impression cytology specimens on days 15 and 30 compared with the other patients. On day 30, group 3 patients had significant differences compared with their baseline measurements in terms of above-mentioned parameters. However, we did not detect a significant effect of any treatment schedule on the Shirmer test value and the numbers of Apo 2.7 cells in impression cytology specimens.
Conclusion: Topical corticosteroids had a clearly beneficial effect both on the subjective and objective clinical parameters of moderate-to-severe dry eye patients. These effects were associated with the reduction of inflammation markers of conjunctival epithelial cells.