PURPOSE: To study the correlation of gender, contact lens (CL) wearing, chronic drinking and chronic smoking with wound healing cytokine levels and corneal recovery after photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). MATERIALS AND METHODS: One hundred and twenty-eight age-matched patients (180 eyes) undergoing PRK were enrolled. PDGF, EGF, VEGF, HGF and TGF-β(1) protein levels were measured in tears by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay either preoperatively or 2, 7 and 15 days after PRK. Patients were seen between one day and five days postoperatively for the evaluation of epithelial healing. Delayed re-epithelialization was defined as healing after day 5. All patients were followed for haze formation for a minimum of three months. RESULTS: All cytokines increased significantly during the first two postoperative days (p < 0.001). PDGF, EGF, HGF decreased to the preoperative levels by day 7, whereas TGF-β1 and VEGF remained elevated over the entire period of observation of 15 days, although to a lesser extent than the second day after surgery, in CL-wearers and smokers, respectively (p < 0.01). The Pearson correlation analysis showed that: (i) CL-wearing positively correlated with TGF-β1 amounts, while chronic smoking positively correlated with VEGF production; (ii) CL-wearing and TGF-β1 amount were found to be associated with early haze formation, whereas chronic smoking and VEGF level with delayed re-epithelialization. No association was found between gender or alcohol consumption and cytokine levels or wound healing. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings highlight for the first time the important role that cigarette smoking and CL wearing may have in altering the tear cytokine network and impairing corneal epithelial wound repair after surgical injury.
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