PURPOSE. To compare densities of corneal epithelial dendritic cells (DCs), corneal subbasal nerves, and conjunctival epithelial immune cells (EICs) between patients with dry eye disease (DED) with and without graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) using in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM). METHODS. This study included 54 patients who had moderate to severe DED either associated with (n = 33) or without (n = 21) chronic GVHD. In addition to evaluating clinical parameters of DED, images obtained by laser-scanning IVCM of the central cornea and superior tarsal conjunctiva were analyzed to measure densities of corneal epithelial DCs, corneal subbasal nerves, and conjunctival EICs. RESULTS. Although there were no significant differences between GVHD and non-GVHD groups in symptom scores, the GVHD group had significantly worse corneal fluorescein staining, tear break-up time, and Schirmer’s scores than the non-GVHD group. Corneal epithelial DC density, corneal subbasal nerve density, and conjunctival EIC density were 148 ± 135 cells/mm2, 16.3 ± 6.1 mm/mm2, and 670 ± 267 cells/mm2, respectively, in the GVHD group; and 122 ± 99 cells/mm2, 18.3 ± 5.1 mm/mm2, and 572 ± 271 cells/mm2, respectively, in the non-GVHD group. After adjusting for clinical parameters, including the DED severity, none of the IVCM parameters was significantly different between the GVHD versus non-GVHD groups (P = 0.82, P = 0.21, and P = 0.60, respectively). CONCLUSIONS. In GVHD-associated DED, cellular changes in the cornea and conjunctiva observed by IVCM were similar to those seen in patients who have non-GVHD dry eye with the same level of disease severity. Therefore, corneal and conjunctival IVCM findings in GVHD-associated DED are possibly reflective of the local disease (DED) severity rather than the underlying systemic disease process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience