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Conjunctival epithelium improvement after systemic pilocarpine in patients with Sjögren’s syndrome


Aim: To evaluate the effect of oral pilocarpine treatment on conjunctival epithelium of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome (SS).

Methods: 15 primary SS patients were included in this prospective, single masked, comparative study. Patients underwent oral pilocarpine treatment for 2 months and were studied before (T0) and after 1 month (T1), 2 months (T2), and 15 days after treatment suspension (T3). Systemic and ocular symptoms, tear film break up time (BUT), corneal fluorescein vital staining, Schirmer I test, tear basal secretion test, and conjunctival imprinting were performed. Student’s t test and Mann-Whitney U test were used for statistics.

Results: The conjunctival imprinting showed an increase of goblet cells number at T1 (1.6 (1.2) v 0.6 (0.7) at T0, p = 0.025) improving at T2 (5.1 (1.7); p<0.001 v T0 and T1). At T3 the number of goblet cells significantly decreased (1.9 (1.1); p<0.001 v T2). An improvement of dry mouth started at T1 and returned towards baseline values at T3. For ocular symptoms, burning and foreign body sensation were improved at T1 while ocular dryness improved at T2. BUT showed a statistically significant improvement at T2.

Conclusions: Oral pilocarpine induced an increase in goblet cells number and an amelioration of conjunctival epithelium not dependent on tear secretion.

  • Ach, acetylcholine
  • BUT, break up time
  • IL, interleukin
  • RM, muscarinic receptors subtypes
  • SS, Sjögren’s syndrome
  • TGF, transforming growth factor
  • TNF, tumour necrosis factor
  • VARS, visual analogue rating scales
  • pilocarpine
  • conjunctiva
  • epithelium
  • goblet cells

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