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Analysis of the ocular surface functional unit in episodic migraine.

AIM: Migraine is a chronic neurovascular disease that affects the trigeminovascular system. The purpose of this study was to evaluate corneal subbasal nerve fibers, dendritic cells and to measure tear film parameters in migraine.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: 87 eyes of 44 patients suffering from migraine with a mean age of 33.23 ± 11.41 years were included in our study. 25 age-matched controls (mean age of 30.16 ± 12.59 years; P = 0.162) were recruited. The corneal subbasal plexus and the dendritic cells (DC) were analyzed using in vivo confocal microscopy (Heidelberg Retina Tomograph II Rostock Cornea Module; Heidelberg Engineering GmbH), and the tear film was imaged using LacryDiag (Quantel Medical, France).

RESULTS: Regarding the subbasal nerve fibers of the cornea, none of the examined parameters differed significantly in migraine patients from controls. We found a significant increase in the corneal DC density (P < 0.0001) and DC area (P < 0.0001) in migraine patients compared to healthy volunteers. DC density showed a positive correlation with the monthly attack frequency (r = 0.32, P = 0.041) and the DC area a negative correlation with corneal nerve branch density (r = -0.233, P = 0.039), nerve fiber length (r = -0.232, P = 0.04) and total branch density (r = -0.233, P = 0.039). Using LacryDiag a significant loss of Meibomian gland area could be detected on the superior eyelid (P = 0.005) in migraine.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest the presence of neuroinflammation in the cornea of migraine patients affecting the peripheral trigeminal system. Dendritic cells surrounding the subbasal plexus may be involved in the activation and modulation of pain in migraine.

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