PURPOSE: To evaluate occurrence of subtarsal fibrosis in patients with graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) and to determine its association with ocular surface epitheliopathy.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.
METHODS: We enrolled 40 patients with moderate or severe dry eye disease, including 20 patients with chronic ocular GVHD and 20 patients without (as the control group). All patients had a comprehensive ophthalmic assessment including evaluation for subtarsal fibrosis, corneal and conjunctival staining, tear break-up time (TBUT), and Schirmer test. Furthermore, meibomian gland drop-out area and densities of epithelial and stromal immune cells were measured using meibography and in vivo confocal microscopy, respectively.
RESULTS: Subtarsal fibrosis was not seen in any eye of the non-GVHD group. However, 16 eyes (40%) of 10 patients (50%) in the GVHD group had subtarsal fibrosis (P < .001) with an average involvement of 28.9% ± 13.7% of the tarsal area. Fibrosis was more frequent in the upper lids (35%) than in the lower lids (5%). Regression analyses showed that corneal fluorescein staining was significantly associated with the extent of fibrosis (P < .001, β = 0.14) and TBUT (P < .001, β = -0.53) but not with other clinical or imaging parameters. Conjunctival lissamine green staining also had a statistically significant association with the extent of fibrosis (P = .04, β = 0.12) but not other clinical or imaging parameters. Eyes with subtarsal fibrosis had a more severe ocular surface epitheliopathy compared with eyes without fibrosis.
CONCLUSIONS: Subtarsal fibrosis is present in a significant percentage of patients with chronic ocular GVHD, likely contributing to the ocular surface damage in these patients.