Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is an inflammatory response of the conjunctiva triggered by exposure to seasonal allergens. Treatment options for SAC include artificial tears, antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, dual antihistamine/mast cell stabilizers, immunotherapy and corticosteroids. Topical, intranasal and systemic formulations of corticosteroids have traditionally provided the most effective relief of the inflammation and signs and symptoms associated with severe, acute exacerbations of SAC. However, steroid-induced ocular and systemic side-effects have limited the prescribing of these agents. This limitation of traditional corticosteroids led to the development of modified corticosteroids that retain the anti-inflammatory mechanism of action of traditional corticosteroids with a much-improved safety profile because of their rapid breakdown to inactive metabolites after exerting their activity. The development of one such novel corticosteroid, loteprednol etabonate (LE), led to the insertion of an ester (instead of a ketone) group at the carbon-20 (C-20) position of the basic corticosteroid structure. Clinical trials assessing this C-20 ester corticosteroid have demonstrated similar efficacy to C-20 ketone corticosteroids in the prevention or treatment of the signs and symptoms of SAC but with a greatly improved safety profile, as the C-20 ester corticosteroid is less likely to elevate intraocular pressure. In addition, the ketone at the C-20 position has been implicated in the formation of cataract, while nonketolic corticosteroids do not form Schiff base intermediates with lens proteins, which is a common first step in cataractogenesis. The clinical relevance of the C-20 ester corticosteroid class, as modelled by LE, is that they provide both effective and safe treatment of the inflammation associated with SAC and relief of its signs and symptoms. Loteprednol etabonate offers a well-tolerated treatment option for patients with debilitating acute exacerbations as well as chronic forms of the disease.
© 2011 The Authors. Acta Ophthalmologica © 2011 Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica Foundation.