The role of cholesterol in chronic blepharitis

W. E. Shine, James P McCulley

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57 Scopus citations


Chronic blepharitis has been a difficult disease to define either microbiologically or biochemically. Sterols from meibomian secretions of normal subjects and patients were analyzed, and important differences were observed. Based on analyses of these secretions, two significantly different (P < 0.001) types of normal subjects were found, those with and those without cholesterol esters [Norm(CP) and Norm(CA), respectively]. All patients' secretions contained cholesterol esters. Evidence was obtained which suggests that oxysterols may control the ester cholesterol accumulation. Furthermore, only when cholesterol esters were present did wax and sterol esters containing unsaturated fatty acids accumulate. Over 90% of these unsaturated fatty acids were normal (unbranched); the rest were iso-fatty acids. Preliminary results also suggest that the ester fatty alcohols are much more complex than previously reported; seven alcohols were common to all samples analyzed. Additionally, highly oxygenated alcohols were detected, especially in the meibomian keratoconjunctivitis (MKC) disease group. The MKC samples also contained an alcohol (mass, M/Z 378) not present in any of the other samples analyzed. Based on analysis of variance and linear-regression models, it was determined that the long-chain (C20-28) fatty acids were more important in determining disease signs. Furthermore, in the MKC group, the ratio of unsaturated C18 fatty acids to cholesterol in the wax and sterol esters was significantly different (P < 0.05) from the Norm(CP) group. The authors discuss the fact that rabbit meibomian secretions are stable, despite containing a very high percentage of ester sterols, and relate this to their high percentage of branched-chain fatty acids and low percentage of unsaturated fatty acids. These results, together with previous work, further suggest that lipid abnormalities result in the many signs and symptoms of chronic blepharitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2272-2280
Number of pages9
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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