Date Published:2015 Nov 1
PURPOSE: To evaluate density and morphology of corneal epithelial immune dendritic cells (DCs) in different subtypes of dry eye disease (DED) using in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM). METHODS: This retrospective study included 59 eyes of 37 patients with DED and 40 eyes of 20 age-matched healthy controls. Based on clinical tests, eyes with DED were categorized into two subtypes: aqueous-deficient (n = 35) and evaporative (n = 24). For all subjects, images of laser scanning in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM) of the central cornea were analyzed for DC density and DC morphology (DC size, number of dendrites, and DC field). These DC parameters were compared among all dry eye and control groups. RESULTS: Compared with the controls, patients with DED had significantly higher DC density, larger DC size, higher number of dendrites, and larger DC field (all P < 0.001). Comparison between aqueous-deficient and evaporative subtypes demonstrated that DC density was significantly higher in aqueous-deficient subtype (189.8 ± 36.9 vs. 58.9 ± 9.4 cells/mm2, P = 0.001). However, there were no significant differences in morphologic parameters between DED subtypes. When aqueous-deficient DED with underlying systemic immune disease (Sjögren's syndrome and graft versus host disease) were compared with nonimmune conditions, the immunologic subgroup showed significantly higher DC density, DC size, and number of dendrites (all P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Corneal IVCM demonstrated differential changes in DC density and morphologic DC parameters between subtypes of DED. These changes, which reflect the degree of immune activation and inflammation in DED, can be used for clinical practice and endpoints in clinical trials.