Background: Primary open-angle glaucoma is commonly treated with long-term hypotensive medical therapy. When this approach becomes inadequate, therapy proceeds with surgery. The present study investigates morphological changes in the conjunctival and subconjunctival tissues induced by short- and long-term topical medical therapy of primary open-angle glaucoma.
Methods: Comparisons were made between biopsy specimens from glaucomatous patients, who received specific eyedrop therapy (timolol and pilocarpine) for various periods of time, and control patients with no conjunctival pathology or topical treatment. Histological, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural parameters were investigated.
Results: The morphometric analysis of histological sections and immunohistochemistry (anti-fibronectin antibody) in medium- and long-term therapy patients showed: (a) significant increases in the thickness and number of epithelial cell layers; (b) significant increases in the fibroblast density in both subepithelial and deep connective tissue; and (c) a more compact connective tissue, richer in collagen fibers arranged in whirls, with some inflammatory elements. These findings were confirmed by the ultrastructural analysis. In the same patients, the other immunohistochemical parameters investigated (anti-HLA-DR, anti-CD1a, anti-CD4, anti-CD8, anti-IL2 and C3b antibodies) revealed a tendency to chronic inflammation. Following specific surgery, this tendency manifested itself in a diffuse immune response, especially in those patients who underwent medium- and long-term medical therapy.
Conclusion: According to these results, antiglaucomatous surgery should be rehabilitated and considered as an alternative to long-term medical therapy in the first-instance treatment of primary open-angle glaucoma.