Conjunctival epithelial cell hypermitosis and goblet cell hyperplasia in atopic keratoconjunctivitis

Am J Ophthalmol. 1993 Oct 15;116(4):456-63. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(14)71404-7.


Atopic diseases that include eczema (atopic dermatitis), asthma, and seasonal and perennial rhinoconjunctivitis are common manifestations of abnormal immediate hypersensitivity. Ocular involvement, such as atopic keratoconjunctivitis, characteristically includes conjunctival and corneal inflammation, and in a severe form, conjunctival scarring, symblepharon, corneal epitheliopathy, and visual loss. To examine the conjunctival cellular abnormalities in atopic keratoconjunctivitis, we studied the in vivo differentiation and tissue-culture growth characteristics of conjunctiva from normal subjects and patients with severe atopic keratoconjunctivitis. We examined conjunctival biopsy specimens to determine epithelial mitotic rate and goblet cell frequency, and we studied conjunctival explants to determine the latent period for fibroblast outgrowth and fibroblast doubling time. The mitotic rate for atopic keratoconjunctivitis, 6.7% +/- 2.1% (11 patients), was statistically significantly greater than for normal subjects, 2.0% +/- 0.63% (seven subjects) (P = .05). Also the goblet cell frequency for atopic keratoconjunctivitis, 14.6% +/- 3.4% (11 patients), was statistically significantly greater than for normal subjects, 4.8% +/- 0.92% (seven subjects) (P = .02). The latent period for fibroblast outgrowth and the fibroblast doubling time for atopic keratoconjunctivitis were not statistically significantly different from normal control subjects. Therefore, atopic keratoconjunctivitis was associated with conjunctival epithelial hypermitosis, goblet cell hyperplasia, and normal fibroblast tissue-culture growth. These characteristics may be useful in the diagnosis of atopic keratoconjunctivitis. We previously studied another disease characterized by chronic conjunctival inflammation and scarring, cicatricial pemphigoid, which also demonstrated conjunctival epithelial hypermitosis, but in contrast there was near absence of goblet cells, and the fibroblasts were hyperproliferative. These differences may be used to distinguish atopic keratoconjunctivitis from cicatricial pemphigoid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Conjunctiva / pathology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / pathology*
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitosis