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Purpose: The metabolic alterations due to chronic hyperglycemia are well-known to cause diabetes-associated complications. Short-term hyperglycemia has also been shown to cause many acute changes, including hemodynamic alterations and osmotic, oxidative, and inflammatory stress. The present study was designed to investigate whether diabetes-associated hyperglycemia can cause rapid-onset detrimental effects on the tear film, goblet cells, and glycocalyx and can lead to activation of an inflammatory cascade or cellular stress response in the cornea.

Methods: Mouse models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes were used. Tear film volume, goblet cell number, and corneal glycocalyx area were measured on days 7, 14, and 28 after the onset of hyperglycemia. Transcriptome analysis was performed to quantify changes in 248 transcripts of genes involved in inflammatory, apoptotic, and stress response pathways.

Results: Our data demonstrate that type 1 and type 2 diabetes-associated hyperglycemia caused a significant decrease in the tear film volume, goblet cell number, and corneal glycocalyx area. The decrease in tear film and goblet cell number was noted as early as 7 days after onset of hyperglycemia. The severity of ocular surface injury was significantly more in type 1 compared to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes mellitus also caused an increase in transcripts of genes involved in the inflammatory, apoptotic, and cellular stress response pathways.

Conclusions: The results of the present study demonstrate that diabetes-associated hyperglycemia causes rapid-onset damage to the ocular surface. Thus, short-term hyperglycemia in patients with diabetes mellitus may also play an important role in causing ocular surface injury and dry eye.


This article was originally published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, volume 64, issue 14, in 2023.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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