Researchers from the UK suggest a new fluorescence imaging method may shed light on contact lens discomfort and ocular surface disease.

In a study published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, the investigators used a fluorescein-tagged wheat germ agglutinin dye as a marker for ocular surface mucins and discovered the amount of the fluorescein dye on the patients’ eyes differed between contact lens wearers and non-wearers.

The investigators reported contact lens wear reduced the dye binding across the ocular surface with the most marked effect on the cornea. Additionally, the dye was reduced in the lid wiper region for symptomatic contact lens wearers compared with asymptomatic lens wearers, indicating that mechanical interaction in this area may play a role in the etiology of contact lens discomfort, the researchers said.

The study enrolled 25 participants: 10 symptomatic contact lens wearers, 10 asymptomatic contact lens wearers and five non-wearers. The researchers photographed the cornea, bulbar and tarsal conjunctiva after patients were given the fluorescein-tagged wheat germ agglutinin dye.

The team observed a significant difference in fluorescence in the corneas of the respective groups, with both the symptomatic and asymptomatic contact lens wearers having less fluorescence than the non-lens wearers.

Also of note: mucin density appeared greatest on the bulbar conjunctiva and lowest on the cornea.

The novel fluorescence dye’s ability to disclose mucin distribution across the ocular surface may help manufacturers with future contact lens designs and materials that could minimize interaction with the ocular surface, the researchers said.

Read ML, Navascues-Cornago M, Keir N, et al. The impact of contact lens wear on ocular surface mucins using a novel clinical fluorescence imaging system. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. August 23, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].