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Effect of herpes simplex keratitis scar location on bilateral corneal nerve alterations: an in vivo confocal microscopy study

Abstract

Aims To evaluate the impact of herpes simplex virus (HSV)-induced scar location on bilateral corneal nerve alterations using laser in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM).

Methods Central and peripheral corneal subbasal nerve density (CSND) were assessed bilaterally in 39 patients with unilateral HSV-induced corneal scars (21 central scars (CS), 18 peripheral scars (PS)) using IVCM. Results were compared between patients and 24 age-matched controls. CSND was correlated to corneal sensation for all locations.

Results Overall patients revealed significant decrease of CSND in the central and peripheral cornea (9.13±0.98 and 6.26±0.53 mm/mm2, p<0.001), compared with controls (22.60±0.77 and 9.88±0.49 mm/mm2). CS group showed a decrease in central (8.09±1.30 mm/mm2) and total peripheral nerves (5.15±0.62 mm/mm2) of the affected eyes, whereas PS group demonstrated a decrease in central (10.34±1.48 mm/mm2) and localised peripheral nerves only in the scar area (4.22±0.77 mm/mm2) (all p<0.001). In contralateral eyes, CSND decreased in the central cornea of the CS group (16.88±1.27, p=0.004), and in the peripheral area, mirroring the scar area in the affected eyes of the PS group (7.20±0.87, p=0.032). Corneal sensation significantly decreased in the whole cornea of the affected, but not in contralateral eyes (p<0.001). A positive correlation between CSND and corneal sensation was found in all locations (p<0.001).

Conclusions Patients with HSV scar demonstrate bilateral CSND decrease as shown by IVCM. CSND and corneal sensation decrease in both central and peripheral cornea in affected eyes, although only in the scar area in PS group. Interestingly, diminishment of CSND was found locally in the contralateral eyes, corresponding and mirroring the scar location in the affected eyes.

  • diagnostic tests/investigation
  • imaging
  • cornea
  • infection

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author (PH), upon reasonable request.

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