To examine the effects of one year of overnight orthokeratology (OK) treatment on the sub-basal nerve plexus (SBNP) and corneal sensitivity and to assess the reversibility of these effects one month after treatment interruption.Methods:
Thirty-two subjects with low-moderate myopia underwent OK treatment for one year. Fifteen non-contact lens wearers served as controls. At the time points baseline, one year of treatment, and one month after removing the OK lenses, two tests were conducted: corneal sensitivity (Cochet–Bonnet esthesiometer) and SBNP imaging by in vivo confocal microscopy.Results:
In participants wearing OK lenses, significant reductions over the year were produced in SBNP nerve density (P=0.001 and P=0.006) and number of nerves (P<0.001 and P=0.001) in the central and mid-peripheral cornea, respectively. Differences over the year were also detected in central objective tortuosity (P=0.002). After lens removal, baseline values of nerve density (P=0.024 and P=0.001) and number of nerves (P=0.021 and P<0.001) for the central and mid-peripheral cornea, respectively, were not recovered. At one month post-treatment, a difference was observed from one-year values in central corneal sensitivity (P=0.045) and mid-peripheral Langerhans cell density (P=0.033), and from baseline in mid-peripheral objective tortuosity (P=0.049). Direct correlation was detected at one year between nerve density and tortuosity both in the central (P<0.01; r=0.69) and mid-peripheral cornea (P<0.01; r=0.76).Conclusions:
Long-term OK treatment led to reduced SBNP nerve density and this was directly correlated with corneal tortuosity. After one month of treatment interruption, nerve density was still reduced.