Tear Lactoferrin and Features of Ocular Allergy in Different Severities of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

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Abstract

SIGNIFICANCE

Meibomian gland dysfunction, but not atrophy, was associated with lower tear lactoferrin concentration, greater dry eye, and allergic symptoms, indicating greater inflammation and discomfort in patients with lower meibomian gland expressibility.

PURPOSE

Meibomian gland dysfunction can potentially damage adjacent palpebral structures, which may induce inflammation in accessory lacrimal glands and affect lactoferrin secretion. This study aimed to examine the relationships between the severity of meibomian gland dysfunction with tear lactoferrin, conjunctival cell morphology, and clinical features of ocular allergy.

METHODS

Forty subjects were divided into two groups based on the severity of meibomian gland plugging and expressibility and secondarily based on its atrophy. Dry eye and allergy questionnaires; slit-lamp examination, including lid telangiectasia; and meibography were performed. Tear lactoferrin concentration was measured using TearScan 270 MicroAssay. Impression cytology was performed on the upper palpebral conjunctiva, and goblet cell density and epithelial squamous metaplasia were quantified.

RESULTS

Twenty-two subjects with meibomian gland dysfunction were categorized into severely obstructed group (case), whereas 19 subjects had minimal/no obstruction (comparison). Lower lactoferrin (1.3 ± 0.4 vs. 1.7 ± 0.4 mg/mL, P = .007), greater dry eye (7 [1 to 10] vs. 2 [0 to 5], P = .03), and allergy symptoms (9 [4 to 23] vs. 6 [0 to 9], P = .05) were found in the cases compared with the comparisons. There were no differences in conjunctival cell morphology between groups. The plugging score was correlated with lactoferrin concentration (ρ = −0.43, P = .006), dry eye (ρ = 0.36, P = .02), and allergic symptoms (ρ = 0.33, P = .04). Greater lid margin telangiectasia was associated with meibomian gland obstruction, but not atrophy.

CONCLUSIONS

Meibomian gland activity/dysfunction, but not atrophy, may be associated with increased inflammation on the ocular surface. The inflammation may be sufficient to reduce tear lactoferrin production from damage to accessory lacrimal glands and/or meibomian gland and result in increased symptoms.

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