Purpose: To elucidate the morphological alterations of the conjunctiva in atopic keratoconjunctivitis (AKC) using the new generation Heidelberg Retina Tomograph II (HRT II)/Rostock Cornea Module confocal microscope in a prospective controlled study.
Methods: Sixteen eyes from AKC patients (eight males, mean age: 20.3+/-5.9 years) were treated with 0.05% topical cyclosporine A (CsA) in addition to topical steroid and anti-allergic eye drops and 12 eyes from patients with AKC were treated using topical steroids and anti-allergic drops (six males, mean age: 22.2+/-10.0 year). These two groups, as well as 14 eyes from normal subjects (six males, one female, average age 30.4+/-6.8 years) were studied. All subjects underwent corneal sensitivity measurements, the Schirmer test, tear film break-up time (BUT), fluorescein, Rose Bengal staining of the ocular surface, and confocal laser scanning microscopy of the tarsal palpebral conjunctiva. The density of conjunctival inflammatory infiltrates was calculated. Morphological characteristics of the papillary lesions were also studied.
Results: Corneal sensitivity, tear stability, and vital staining scores were significantly worse in patients with AKC compared to control subjects (p<0.01). Eyes of AKC patients using CsA showed a significantly lower density of inflammatory infiltrates compared to eyes on topical steroid and anti-allergic drops. Conjunctival inflammatory cell density showed a negative correlation with tear stability and corneal sensitivity and a positive correlation with the vital staining scores. Papillary lesions revealed remarkable fibrosis in patients using CsA.
Conclusions: Confocal scanning laser microscopy was an efficient and a noninvasive tool for the quantitative assessment of the conjunctival inflammation and evaluation of pathological alterations in the papillary lesions and their relation to the ocular surface disease in patients with AKC.