Purpose: To illustrate that corneal neuralgia may be the basis for refractory dry eye syndrome after laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).
Methods: The methodology used is that of a retrospective medical record review of a small case series.
Results: Three male patients, aged 30 to 48 years, referred in 2012 for dry eye syndrome refractory to treatment within 1 year of LASIK or LASIK enhancement are reported. Each patient gave history of eye pain, light sensitivity, and difficulty with visual activities beginning within 2 months of LASIK or LASIK enhancement. Best-corrected visual acuity was 20/15 or 20/20 in each of the six eyes. Tear-centered models and metrics did not explain persistent symptoms, which was consistent with inadequate response to standard dry eye treatments used before referral and reported here. In vivo confocal microscopy was abnormal at presentation in each case and was followed over time. Treatments undertaken subsequent to referral included autologous serum tears (three cases), PROSE (Prosthetic Replacement of the Ocular Surface Ecosystem) treatment (two cases), and systemic agents for pain, anxiety, or depression (three cases). By the end of 2013, at a mean of 23 months after LASIK or LASIK enhancement, symptoms improved in all three patients.
Conclusions: Patients with persistent dry eye symptoms out of proportion to clinical signs after LASIK have a syndrome that may best be classified as corneal neuralgia. In vivo confocal microscopy can be informative as to the neuropathic basis of this condition. In keeping with current understanding of complex regional pain syndrome, early multimodal treatment directed toward reducing peripheral nociceptive signaling is warranted to avoid subsequent centralization and persistence of pain. Distinguishing this syndrome from typical post-LASIK dry eye remains a challenge.