Therapeutic Effect of 0.1% Tacrolimus Eye Drops in the Tarsal Form of Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis

Ophthalmic Res. 2018;59(3):126-134. doi: 10.1159/000478704. Epub 2017 Aug 12.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 0.1% tacrolimus eye drops in the tarsal form of vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) and to survey the changes of dendritic cells at the palpebral conjunctiva in patients with VKC by in vivo confocal microscopy.

Methods: A total of 17 patients (34 eyes) with the tarsal form of VKC were enrolled in this prospective, nonrandomized case series. They were treated with 0.1% tacrolimus eye drops twice daily after discontinuation of all other topical medications. Subjective ocular symptoms and objective ocular signs were scored on a 4-point scale by one ophthalmologist and the characteristics of the dendritic cells in each right eye at the palpebral conjunctiva were evaluated by in vivo confocal microscopy before treatment and at the 1st, 2th, 4th, and 8th weeks after treatment.

Results: After 1 week of treatment with 0.1% tacrolimus eye drops, the score for each symptom in all patients showed a significant (p < 0.001) improvement, and 13 patients (76%) experienced dramatic relief of symptoms. In addition, there was a significantly (p < 0.001) decreased clinical sign score (except for giant papillae) after 4 weeks, and a significant (p < 0.001) improvement in the score of giant papillae after 8 weeks of treatment. The characteristics of dendritic cells (including cell count, total area, average size, perimeter, and diameter) showed a significant (p < 0.05) decrease after 2 weeks of treatment. During the follow-up, no other topical medications were required and no significant changes in visual acuity were documented. No cataracts or elevation of intraocular pressures were detected. Only 5 patients (29%) had a tingling or burning sensation or discomfort.

Conclusions: Tacrolimus 0.1% eye drops are an effective and safe treatment for the tarsal form of VKC, and can rapidly inhibit the activity of dendritic cells, improve symptoms, reduce papillary hyperplasia, and reverse damage at the palpebral conjunctiva. The side effects could affect the compliance of some patients.

Keywords: Confocal microscopy; Efficacy; Palpebral vernal keratoconjunctivitis; Tacrolimus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Conjunctiva / drug effects
  • Conjunctiva / pathology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / diagnosis
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / drug therapy*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tacrolimus / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Tacrolimus