We evaluated the effects on the rabbit cornea of daily wear of rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses treated with preserved care solutions by measuring concomitant tear lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity followed by in vivo tandem scanning confocal microscopy (TSCM). In vivo morphologic changes were confirmed by in vitro scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Two standard commercial RGP lens wetting and soaking solutions from the same manufacturer were tested: Solution A with 0.004% benzalkonium chloride (BAK) and solution B with 0.003% Chlorhexidine digluconate (CHX) and 0.002% thimerosal. Two experimental PBS-based wetting and soaking solutions were also tested: Solution C with 0.005% BAK and 2% hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) and solution D with 0.005% BAK without HPMC. Instillation of solution A without contact lens wear caused significant (P < 0.01) increases in desquamation of the superficial corneal epithelium and tear LDH activity compared with control eyes. After 3 weeks of RGP contact lens daily wear (8 hours/day), modified Draize scores of ocular surface lesions on the eyes wearing RGP lenses treated with solution A increased according to the duration of lens wear. Solution B did not produce significant change. With daily wear for 4 days (8 hours/day), RGP lenses treated with solution C and solution D produced increased corneal epithelium desquamation and an increase of LDH activity in tears. These effects were greater with HPMC (solution C) than without HPMC (solution D). Based on the results of these studies, we conclude that frequent use of BAK-preserved contact lens wetting and soaking solutions would produce clinically significant corneal epithelial desquamation, and BAK with lubricant in artificial tears produces more severe ocular surface lesions than without lubricant.
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