Topical treatment for blepharokeratoconjunctivitis (BKC) in children

What is the aim of this review?
The aim of this Cochrane review was to find out if topical treatment (by eye drops or ointments) for BKC in children improves symptoms and is safe. Cochrane researchers collected and analysed all relevant studies to answer this question and included one study in this review.

Key messages
There is no good evidence as to the benefits and harms of topical treatments for BKC in children.

What was studied in the review?
When the surface of the eye and eyelids becomes inflamed this is known as blepharokeratoconjunctivitis or BKC. This can cause watery, itchy, red eyes that are painful in bright light. Occasionally it can lead to scarring at the front of the eye and result in loss of vision. It is a quite common reason for children attending for eye care. Antibiotics, steroids and lubricants have been considered as possible treatments for this condition and can be given as eye drops or ointments.

What are the main results of the review?
Cochrane researchers found one study that looked at the effects of a combination of steroids and antibiotics in treatment of BKC in children. The study did not report the effects of this treatment clearly and was too small to provide a good assessment of safety.

How up-to-date is this review?
The Cochrane researchers searched for studies that had been published up to 11 July 2016.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is no high-quality evidence of the safety and efficacy of topical treatments for BKC, which resulted in uncertainty about the indications and effectiveness of topical treatment. Clinical trials are required to test efficacy and safety of current and any future treatments. Outcome measures need to be developed which can capture both objective clinical and patient-reported aspects of the condition and treatments.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Blepharokeratoconjunctivitis (BKC) is a type of inflammation of the surface of the eye and eyelids that involves changes of the eyelids, dysfunction of the meibomian glands, and inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea. Chronic inflammation of the cornea can lead to scarring, vascularisation and opacity. BKC in children can cause significant symptoms including irritation, watering, photophobia and loss of vision from corneal opacity, refractive error or amblyopia.

Treatment of BKC is directed towards modification of meibomian gland disease and the bacterial flora of lid margin and conjunctiva, and control of ocular surface inflammation. Although both topical and systemic treatments are used to treat people with BKC, this Cochrane review focuses on topical treatments.

Objectives: 

To assess and compare data on the efficacy and safety of topical treatments (including antibiotics, steroids, immunosuppressants and lubricants), alone or in combination, for BKC in children from birth to 16 years.

Search strategy: 

We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Trials Register) (2016, Issue 6), Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE Daily, Ovid OLDMEDLINE ( January 1946 to 11 July 2016), Embase (January 1980 to 11 July 2016), the ISRCTN registry (www.isrctn.com/editAdvancedSearch), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov) and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en). We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 11 July 2016. We searched the reference lists of identified reports and the Science Citation Index to identify any additional reports of studies that met the inclusion criteria.

Selection criteria: 

We searched for randomised controlled trials that involved topical treatments in children up to 16 years of age with a clinical diagnosis of BKC. We planned to include studies that evaluated a single topical medication versus placebo, a combination of treatments versus placebo, and those that compared two or multiple active treatments. We planned to include studies in which participants received additional treatments, such as oral antibiotics, oral anti-inflammatories, warm lid compresses and lid margin cleaning.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently screened the results of the literature search (titles and abstracts) to identify studies that met the inclusion criteria of the review and applied standards as expected for Cochrane reviews. We graded the certainty of the evidence using GRADE.

Main results: 

We included one study from the USA that met the inclusion criteria. In the study, 137 children aged zero to six years old with blepharoconjunctivitis were randomised to treatment in one of four trial arms (loteprednol etabonate/tobramycin combination, loteprednol etabonate alone, tobramycin alone or placebo) for 15 days, with assessments on days 1, 3, 7 and 15. We judged the study to be at high risk of attrition bias and bias due to selective outcome reporting. The study did not report the number of children with improvement in symptoms nor with total or partial success as measured by changes in clinical symptoms.

All children showed a reduction in blepharoconjunctivitis grade score, but there was no evidence of important differences between groups. Visual acuity was not fully reported but the authors stated that there was no change in visual acuity in any of the treatment groups. The study reported ocular and non ocular adverse events but was underpowered to detect differences between the groups. Ocular adverse events were as follows: loteprednol/tobramycin 1/34 (eye pain); loteprednol 4/35 (eye pain, conjunctivitis, eye discharge, eye inflammation); tobramycin 0/34; placebo (vehicle) 0/34. The evidence was limited for all these outcomes and we judged it to be very low certainty.

There was no information on clinical signs (aside from grade score), disease progression or quality of life.

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