Well-regulated corneal water content is critical for ocular health and function and can be adversely affected by a number of diseases and injuries. Current clinical practice limits detection of unhealthy corneal water content levels to central corneal thickness measurements performed by ultrasound or optical coherence tomography. Trends revealing increasing or decreasing corneal thickness are fair indicators of corneal water content by individual measurements are highly inaccurate due to the poorly understood relationship between corneal thickness and natural physiologic variation.
Recently the utility of THz imaging to accuarately measure corneal water content has been explored on with rabbit models. Preliminary experiments revealed that contact with dielectric windows confounded imaging data and made it nearly impossible to deconvolve thickness variations due to contact from thickness variations due to water content variation. A follow up study with a new optical design allowed the acquisition of rabbit data and the results suggest that the observed, time varying contrast was due entirely to the water dynamics of the cornea.
This paper presents the first ever in vivo images of human cornea. Five volunteers with healthy cornea were recruited and their eyes were imaged three times over the course of a few minutes with our novel imaging system. Noticeable changes in corneal reflectivity were observed and attributed to the drying of the tear film. The results suggest that clinically compatible, non-contact corneal imaging is feasible and indicate that signal acquired from non-contact imaging of the cornea is a complicated coupling of stromal water content and tear film.
Shijun Sung, Neha Bajwa, Sophie X. Deng, Zachary Taylor, and Warren Grundfest, "Corneal tissue water content mapping with THz imaging: preliminary clinical results
(Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9706, Optical Interactions with Tissue and Cells XXVII, 97060B (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 15, 2016; Published: 26 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2218575.4848609614001.
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