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Exacerbation of signs and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis by a controlled adverse environment challenge in subjects with a history of dry eye and ocular allergy

Background: The goal of this study was to assess the effect of a controlled adverse environment (CAE) challenge on subjects with both allergic conjunctivitis and dry eye.

Methods: Thirty-three subjects were screened and 17 completed this institutional review board-approved study. Subjects underwent baseline ocular assessments and conjunctival allergen challenge (CAC) on days 0 and 3. Those who met the ocular redness and itching criteria were randomized to receive either the controlled adverse environment (CAE) challenge (group A, n = 9) or no challenge (group B, n = 8) at day 6. Thirty minutes after CAE/no-CAE, subjects were challenged with allergen and their signs and symptoms graded. Exploratory confocal microscopy was carried out in a subset of subjects at hourly intervals for 5 hours post-CAC on days 3 and 6.

Results: Seven minutes post-CAC, subjects exposed to the CAE had significantly greater itching (difference between groups, 0.55 ± 0.25, P = 0.028), conjunctival redness (0.59 ± 0.19, P = 0.002), episcleral redness (0.56 ± 0.19, P = 0.003) and mean overall redness (mean of conjunctival, episcleral, and ciliary redness, 0.59 ± 0.14, P , 0.001). The mean score at 7, 15, and 20 minutes post-CAC for conjunctival redness (0.43 ± 0.17, P = 0.012), episcleral redness (0.49 ± 0.15, P = 0.001), mean overall redness in all regions (0.43 ± 0.15, P = 0.005), and mean chemosis (0.20 ± 0.08, P = 0.017) were also all significantly greater in CAE-treated subjects. Confocal microscopic images of conjunctival vessels after CAC showed more inflammation in CAE-treated subjects.

Conclusion: In subjects with both dry eye and allergic conjunctivitis, exposure to adverse environmental conditions causes an ocular surface perturbation that can intensify allergic reactions.

Keywords: allergic conjunctivitis, dry eye, conjunctival allergen challenge, controlled adverse environment, comorbidity