The autonomic nervous system plays a crucial role in the maintenance of homeostasis. Neurogenic inflammation due to decreased stability of tear film may induce changes in autonomic nerve activity, which could be associated with symptom expression.This study aimed to measure biological parameters that represent autonomic nerve activity in dry eye (DE)s caused by tear film dysfunction and investigate their relationship with symptom intensity. This prospective, cross-sectional, comparative study evaluated 34 eyes of 34 participants (mean age: 52.5 ± 13.4 years; range: 20–81 years) without keratoconjunctival damage. Nineteen eyes in the DE group showed DE symptoms and tear break-up time (TBUT) of ≤5 seconds (short TBUT DE); the 15 eyes in the non-DE group showed no DE symptoms. Autonomic nerve activity was measured for 10 minutes—starting and ending 5 minutes before and after instilling ophthalmic solution—and evaluated using the low-frequency component (LF) to the high-frequency component (HF) ratio of heart rate variability (autonomic balance). The pre-ophthalmic solution administration LF/HF ratio was not significantly different (P = 0.59) between the two groups, however, the standard deviation of the LF/HF ratio (LF/HF-SD) tended to be higher in the DE group than that in the non-DE group (P = 0.086). The DE symptom intensity was significantly related to LF/HF-SD (P = 0.005), which significantly decreased after ophthalmic solution administration in the DE group (P = 0.04). The large fluctuations in autonomic balance may be key for the understanding of the mechanism underlying DE symptoms.
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