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Minna Vesaluoma, Linda Müller, Juana Gallar, Alessandro Lambiase, Jukka Moilanen, Tapani Hack, Carlos Belmonte, Timo Tervo; Effects of Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper Spray on Human Corneal Morphology and Sensitivity. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2000;41(8):2138-2147.
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purpose. To examine the potential harmful effects on corneal structure,
innervation, and sensitivity of a spray containing the neurotoxin
capsaicin (oleoresin capsicum, OC).
methods. Ten police officers who volunteered for the study were exposed to OC.
Clinical signs were assessed. Corneal sensitivity was measured using a
Cochet–Bonnet or a noncontact esthesiometer that provides separate
measurements of mechanical, chemical, and thermal sensitivity. Tear
fluid nerve growth factor (NGF) was measured. Corneal cell layers and
subbasal nerves were examined by in vivo confocal microscopy. The
subjects were examined before application and 30 minutes, 1 day, 1
week, and 1 month after OC exposure.
results. OC spray produced occasional areas of focal epithelial cell damage that
healed within 1 day. Each eye showed conjunctival hyperemia and in two
subjects, mild chemosis. All except one eye had unchanged best
corrected visual acuity (BCVA). A transient decrease (day 1) of
mechanical sensitivity was observed with the Cochet–Bonnet
esthesiometer. With the gas esthesiometer, mechanical sensitivity
remained below normal values for 7 days. Chemical sensitivity to
CO2 was high for as much as 1 day and decreased below
normal 1 week later, whereas sensitivity to cold was unaffected. Two
subjects had measurable tear NGF that increased after exposure. Basal
epithelial cell morphology suggested temporary corneal epithelial
swelling, whereas keratocytes, endothelial cells, and subbasal nerves
conclusions. Although OC causes immediate changes in mechanical and chemical
sensitivity that may persist for a week, a single exposure to OC
appears harmless to corneal tissues. The changes are possibly
associated with damage of corneal nerve terminals of mainly
unmyelinated polymodal nociceptor fibers.
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