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Controversial role of retinoids in ocular surface disease
  1. Swapna S Shanbhag1,
  2. Sayan Basu1,2
  1. 1 Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
  2. 2 Center for Ocular Regeneration (CORE), L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sayan Basu, Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, AP 500034, India; sayanbasu{at}

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Retinoids are chemical derivatives of vitamin A or synthetic compounds that are structurally or functionally similar to it.1 In the body, retinoids bind to specific receptors leading to the activation of DNA regions involved in regulating epithelial cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis. Retinoids are widely used in dermatology and approved for clinical use in the treatment of acne, rosacea, psoriasis, lichen planus and ichthyosis.1 Retinoids have also shown efficacy in reversing photoageing, preventing precancerous lesions like actinic keratosis from progressing, and in reducing the risk of skin cancers in solid organ transplant recipients.1 However, the role of retinoids in ophthalmology has been controversial. In the 1980s ocular surface disease emerged as a potential therapeutic target, since vitamin A deficiency was known to cause epithelial squamous metaplasia and glandular atrophy.2 The first study included a variety of dry eye disorders including keratoconjunctivitis sicca, Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) and radiation-induced dryness. The preliminary results were extremely encouraging and showed reversal of squamous metaplasia or keratinisation on impression cytology.2 Unfortunately, …

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  • Contributors All authors listed have contributed significantly to be considered for authorship.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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