For patients with meibomian gland dysfunction, silicone hydrogel contact lenses (CLs) won’t cause cytokine-driven ocular surface inflammation, researchers say. However, the lenses may impact tear function for these patients, which could still lead to symptoms of dry eye disease (DED).

The new study, published in the latest issue of Eye & Contact Lens, looked at the MGD patients who had worn the lenses for at least six months. The subjects were evaluated using visual acuity testing, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire, tear sample collection, ocular surface staining, tear break-up time (TBUT) and Schirmer testing. Ocular tear cytokine levels were also determined.

In the end, the mean cytokine concentrations of CL wearers were not statistically significant compared with those of healthy control subjects. Even the concentrations of those with and without MGD didn’t show any statistically significant variation.

According to the Turkey-based research team, the TBUT and ocular surface staining in CL wearers with MGD were significantly worse compared with controls, but these parameters did not correlate with tear cytokine levels, suggesting other factors are to blame for the symptoms. “The abnormal interaction between the meibomian lipids and the contact lens surface is thought to result in thinning of the tear lipid layer, accelerated tear evaporation and dewetting as a result of the increased lens-surface hydrophobicity,” the report reads. “These changes are likely to be the underlying causes for reduced TBUT, higher ocular surface staining as well as higher OSDI scores previously reported in CL wearers.”    

Yucekul B, Mocan M, Mehmet C, et al. Evaluation of long-term silicone hydrogel use on ocular surface inflammation and tear function in patients with and without meibomian gland dysfunction. Eye & Contact Lens. 2019:45(1):61–6.