Neuropathic symptoms of the ocular surface: dryness, pain, and itch

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Purpose of review

This review aims to describe the recent findings on epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management of neuropathic symptoms of the ocular surface, with a focus on potential similarities between sensations of dry eye, pain and itch.

Recent findings

A narrative review of the literature was undertaken. Key references from research in dry eye, neuropathic symptoms of the ocular surface, ocular pain and itch, as well as general references on itch and pain neurobiology were included. Recent findings suggest aspects of dry eye, chronic ocular pain and itch symptomatology are driven by neuropathic pain mechanisms involving peripheral and central sensitization processes.


Ocular dryness, pain, and itch are prevalent complaints with several of shared features. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that peripheral and central neuronal sensitization processes are involved in generating and maintaining ocular sensory symptoms. Research is warranted on the epidemiology of ocular sensations, molecular mechanisms involved in nociception and pruriception in the eye, electrophysiological alterations in animal models of eye conditions, and therapeutic modalities that can alleviate unpleasant ocular sensations.

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