Dry eye disease is a common debilitating ocular disease. Current diagnostic tests used in dry eye disease are often neither sensitive nor reproducible, making it difficult to accurately diagnose and determine end points for clinical trials, or evaluate the usefulness of different medications in the treatment of dry eye disease. The recently developed fluorophotometer can objectively detect changes in the corneal epithelium by quantitatively measuring its barrier function or permeability. The purpose of the study is to investigate the use of corneal fluorescein penetration measured by the fluorophotometer as a diagnostic tool in the evaluation of dry eye patients.
Dry eye patients (16 eyes), who presented with a chief complaint of ocular irritation corresponding with dry eye, low Schirmer's one test (<10 mm after 5 minutes) and corneal fluorescein staining score of more than two, were included in the study. Normal subjects (16 eyes), who came for refraction error evaluation, served as controls. Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved consent was obtained before enrolling the subjects in the study and all questions were answered while explaining the risks, benefits and alternatives. All Fluorophotometry of the central corneal epithelium was done utilizing the Fluorotron Master (TradeMark). Each eye had a baseline fluorescein scan performed, after which 50 l of 1% sodium fluorescein dye was instilled. Three minutes later, the fluorescein was washed with 50 ml of normal saline. Fluorescein scans were then started immediately after washing and were recorded at 10, 20, 40, and 60 minutes thereafter. The corneal peak values of fluorescein concentration were recorded within the central cornea in both dry eyes and in controls.
Ten minutes after fluorescein installition, patients with dry eye disease averaged a five-fold increase in corneal tissue fluorescein concentration (mean = 375.26 ± 202.67 ng/ml) compared with that of normal subjects (mean = 128.19 ± 85.84 ng/ml). Sixty minutes after dye installation, patients with dry eye disease still revealed higher corneal tissue fluorescein concentration (mean = 112.87 ± 52.83 ng/ml) compared with that of controls (mean = 40.64 ± 7.96 ng/ml), averaging a three-fold increase.
Patients with dry eye disease demonstrated an increased corneal permeability and a slower rate of elimination to topically administered fluorescein when measured by the fluorophotometer. This suggests that fluorophotometry may serve as a valuable quantitative and objective tool for the diagnosis of dry eye disease, and in following patients' response to new treatment modalities. Fluorophotometry may serve as an objective non-invasive tool for end-point analysis in clinical trials of new treatments for dry eye disease.