Purpose: To evaluate the frequency and epidemiological features of vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) in Italy.
Methods: a specific electronic clinical chart for vernal keratoconjunctivitis was created to standardize: 1) medical history; 2) diagnostic criteria; 3) signs and symptoms; and 4) treatments. This study involved 6 Italian referral centers for ocular surface diseases: between March 2005 and March 2006, all referred patients were included, clinical data collected and statistically examined.
Results: The mean age of the vernal keratoconjunctivitis population (n = 156) was 13.8 +/- 8.8 with 64.1% of subjects under 14 years of age and a male/female ratio of 3.5:1. Among VKC patients, 48.7% showed associated systemic allergic diseases. Only 32.1% of patients were positive for RAST and/or prick test. The limbal form (53.8%) was the most frequent subtype of vernal keratoconjunctivitis. Approximately 9% of patients showed a severe form of vernal keratoconjunctivitis. At the first visit patients were treated with: multiple action or mast cell stabilizer eye drops (58.1% and 41.3% of cases, respectively), topical corticosteroids alone (0.6%) or in association (26.8% of cases). All patients used topical steroids at least once in the studied year. Systemic antihistamine therapy was used by 25.6% of patients. In this cohort, 32.7% of patients required two or more examinations per year for exacerbations of their symptoms.
Conclusion: Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a severe ocular condition that mainly affects young males. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is characterized by different clinical features and therapeutic responses, suggesting the need for a standardized therapeutic approach on the basis of a grading of disease severity.