The metabolic state of rabbit corneas was monitored in vivo using the noninvasive method of corneal redox fluorometry. The autofluorescence signals of reduced pyridine nucleotides (PN) and oxidized flavoproteins (Fp) were measured in the corneal epithelium with and without contact lens wear. The PN/Fp ratio, which is related to the metabolic status of the tissue, was then calculated for each of these conditions. After application of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) contact lenses having an oxygen transmissibility (Dk) of <0.1, the PN signal increased and the Fp signal decreased. The PN/Fp ratio, generally a more precise indicator of metabolic state than either of these two quantities alone, was 1.93 ± 0.78 without contact lenses, and increased to 2.78 ± 0.86 (p < 0.0001) with contact lenses. When oxygen-permeable silicon contact lenses (Dk = 12.5) were placed on the corneas, the PN/Fp ratio was found to increase slightly, but not as much as with the PMMA lenses. Newly developed highly oxygen-permeable contact lenses (Dk = 58.8) did not increase this ratio. Our findings indicate that redox fluorometry can be valuable in determining the effects of contact lens wear on corneal metabolism.
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