The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vivo effects at 3 years of preservative-free tafluprost on corneal health. It was a prospective, masked, study on consecutive patients with a new prescription of preservative-free (PF) tafluprost (naïve-N or switched-S, 44 and 14 patients), and preserved (P) bimatoprost 0.003% or travoprost 0.004% (P-group, 35 patients). A complete ophthalmic examination and an in vivo corneal confocal microscopy evaluation were performed at baseline and every 6 months for 3 years. Ninety-three patients were enrolled, clinical parameters were similar in the groups at baseline, apart from intraocular pressure (IOP) which was lower in the S-group (p = 0.012). Both at baseline and over time, confocal microscopy parameters had different trends. At baseline, keratocyte activation was similar in the three groups (p = 0.43) but over the next months naïve patients treated with PF-tafluprost presented a significant (p = 0.004) reduction in keratocyte activation. Sub-basal nerves tended to increase in patients switched to PF-tafluprost (p = 0.07) while were stable in the other two groups (p = 0.11 in PF and 0.40 in P group). Grade of tortuosity was stable over time in the three groups. Beading-like formations were stable over time for the P- and the PF-group, while significantly increased in the S-group (p = 0.027). Endothelial density values were statistically different at baseline (p = 0.007), they decreased both in PF-group and in S-group (p = 0.048 and 0.001, respectively), while increased in P-group (p = 0.006). Our study is the first to show that a PF-tafluprost formulation does not significantly alter the corneal structures as examined by confocal microscopy after 36 months of topical daily therapy, while improving corneal alterations due to chronic preserved therapies.
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