Ocular toxicity as a consequence of chronic pesticide exposure is one of the health hazards caused due to extended exposure to pesticides. The cornea, due to its position as the outer ocular layer and its role in protecting the internal layers of the eye; is gravely affected by this xenobiotic insult to the eye, leading to ocular irritation and damage to normal vision. The deleterious effects of chronic pesticide exposure on the various corneal layers and the ocular risks involved therein, were explored by mimicking the on-field scenario. Cytological, histological and flowcytometric parameters were taken into consideration to determine the enhanced risk of corneal neovascularisation and keratectasia, specifically, keratoconus. Chronic exposure to pesticides leads to heightened ocular morbidity wherein there were visible pathophysiological changes to the ocular surface. The cornea was found to be adversely affected with visible protuberance in a cone-like shape, characteristic of keratoconus in a majority of the experimental animals. Further analyses revealed a detrimental impact on all the corneal layers and an amplified expression of inflammation markers such as TNF-α, VCAM-1 and ICAM-1. Additionally, it was found that post pesticide exposure, the corneal surface developed hypoxia, leading to a significant increase of angiogenesis promoting factors and consequential neovascularisation. Apart from ocular toxicity, chronic exposure to pesticides significantly increases the risks of keratectasia and corneal neovascularisation; disorders which lead to diminished vision and if untreated, blindness.Graphical abstract
Pesticides are described as farmers' friends; however they are responsible for multiple health hazards, inclusive of asthenopia and other oculo-pathologies. The current study reveals a hitherto undiscovered link between keratectasia, corneal neovascularisation and chronic pesticide exposure.