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Keywords:

  • conjunctiva;
  • dry eye disease;
  • eyelid margin;
  • human;
  • in vivo confocal microscopy;
  • lid wiper;
  • Marx’s line;
  • muco-cutaneous junction;
  • tear film

Abstract

The inner border of the eyelid margin is critically important for ocular surface integrity because it guarantees the thin spread of the tear film. Its exact morphology in the human is still insufficiently known. The histology in serial sections of upper and lower lid margins in whole-mount specimens from 10 human body donors was compared to in vivo confocal microscopy of eight eyes with a Heidelberg retina-tomograph (HRT II) and attached Rostock cornea module. Behind the posterior margin of the Meibomian orifices, the cornified epidermis stopped abruptly and was replaced by a continuous layer of para-keratinized (pk) cells followed by discontinuous pk cells. The pk cells covered the muco-cutaneous junction (MCJ), the surface of which corresponded to the line of Marx (0.2–0.3 mm wide). Then a stratified epithelium with a conjunctival structure of cuboidal cells, some pk cells, and goblet cells formed an epithelial elevation of typically about 100 μm initial thickness (lid wiper). This continued for 0.3–1.5 mm and formed a slope. The MCJ and lid wiper extended all along the lid margin from nasal to temporal positions in the upper and lower lids. Details of the epithelium and connective tissue were also detectable using the Rostock cornea module. The human inner lid border has distinct zones. Due to its location and morphology, the epithelial lip of the lid wiper appears a suitable structure to spread the tear film and is distinct from the MCJ/line of Marx. Better knowledge of the lid margin appears important for understanding dry eye disease and its morphology can be analysed clinically by in vivo confocal microscopy.