• ocular allergic diseases;
  • tears;
  • substance P;
  • enzyme immunoassay


Background Recetit studies have suggested that the nervous system may participate in inflammatory processes. Substance P (SP) acts as a chemical mediator as well as a neurotransmitter.

Objective In order to clarify the pathogenesis of ocular allergic diseases, we assessed the concentration of SP in tears.

Methods Using a highly sensitive and specific double-antibody enzyme immunoassay (EIA), we determined the SP concentration in tears of 10 patients with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, 10 with atopic dermatitis without keratoconjunctivitis (AD), 13 with vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) and 65 normal controls. Giemsa's staining for brush cytology samples and histocytological study by immunocytochemical staining of giant papillary conjunctival cells from VKC and normal controls was conducted.

Results The mean SP level was low in the normal controls and AD, whereas patients with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and VKC showed significant elevation of SP (P<0.01). Brush cytology samples showed conjunctival epithelial cells with lymphocytes, neutrophils and eosinophils that were not seen in normal subjects. Histocytological examination demonstrated SP positive cells in the conjunctiva of patients with VKC, but not in normal controls.

Conclusion This study suggests that the increased level of SP in tears may contribute to the pathogenesis and severity of ocular allergic diseases.