Objective: Vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) is a chronic conjunctivitis that affects children mainly in temperate areas, with exacerbations in spring and summer. Eyelashes provide natural protection for the eyes from sunshine, wind, and foreign bodies. These factors induce a worsening of signs and symptoms in VKC, whereas mechanical protection of the eyes produces relief. The aim of this study was to evaluate eyelash length in a large series of VKC patients and in age- and gender-matched healthy subjects.
Methods: Upper eyelash length was measured in 93 VKC patients (mean age: 8.7 years; range: 4-18 years) with a digital caliper. History, clinical form, type of presentation, degree of severity, and drug therapy were evaluated. Skin tests and serum-specific immunoglobulin E for common allergens, serum-total immunoglobulin E, peripheral blood eosinophil counts, and serum eosinophil cationic protein were determined. Two age- and gender-matched control subjects for each VKC patient underwent the same eyelash measurement.
Results: The upper eyelashes were significantly longer in VKC patients than in control subjects (mean +/- SD: 8.9 +/- 1.17 mm vs 7.9 +/- 1.07 mm). In healthy subjects, a negative correlation was found between eyelash length and age. With multivariate analysis, unlike control subjects, the eyelash length in VKC patients did not correlate with age, was positively correlated with the degree of severity of VKC, and was negatively correlated with the use of topical cyclosporine.
Conclusions: Patients with VKC had longer eyelashes than healthy matched subjects. The ocular inflammation, by unknown chemical mediators, was likely responsible for the excessive eyelash growth. The finding may represent a defensive mechanism against physical agents that might have a crucial role in the etiopathogenesis of this disease.