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Home » Strategic Planning » NEI Workshop on Ocular Pain and Sensitivity

NEI Workshop on Ocular Pain and Sensitivity

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The NEI Workshop on Ocular Pain and Sensitivity was held on Sept 30 - Oct 1, 2010. Chronic ocular pain is poorly understood. While primarily considered an ocular surface phenomenon, little is known about the biology of its peripheral and central mechanisms. Clinicians have traditionally concluded that patients who report corneal pain and sensitivity exacerbated by moving air as having dry eye syndrome even though many have normal tear flow and lack supporting signs. The disparity between symptoms and signs is typical of neuropathic pain. In the most severe cases, the ocular pain may be associated with emotional fear, anxiety, depression, cognitive impairments and ideations of suicide. Treatments, such as anticonvulsants and tricyclic antidepressants, are characterized by low therapeutic ratios, narrow pharmacological windows and a lack of pharmacological specificity. A better understanding of the mechanisms and appropriate characterization of ocular pain are prerequisites for developing more effective treatments.

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Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities in Ocular Pain and Sensitivity

The high priority items in vision research identified at the workshop are described below.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Peripheral Nervous System

Central Nervous System (CNS)

Other Areas of Opportunity

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NEI Planning Workshops

For over thirty years, the NEI has developed a new strategic plan approximately every 5-7 years to identify current trends, challenges, and opportunities in vision research. These plans represent a snapshot of the landscape of vision research. In the intervening years, advances in biomedical research often reveal new, unanticipated areas or disciplines demanding more immediate attention. The NEI maintains an ongoing workshop development process. Needs, gaps, and opportunities identified by these workshops are considered areas of high importance to vision research and the NEI.

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Participants and Agenda

The NEI Office of Program Planning and Analysis organized the meeting, with input from external co-chairs, Drs. Carlos Belmonte and Todd Margolis. Advances in understanding the pathophysiology of pain and sensitivity in other areas such as headache, joint, and dental pain have been more thoroughly investigated than ocular pain and sensitivity. A multidisciplinary workshop was convened that included expertise in ophthalmology as well as clinicians and scientists from non-ocular fields with expertise in pain. Attendees included 18 clinicians and scientists with expertise in ocular pain, dry eye syndrome, and ocular immunology, as well as pain taxonomy, anatomy, physiology, genetics, pharmacology, neuronal plasticity, perception, and clinical trials using other model tissues.

Prior to the meeting, each participant provided a "white paper" that summarized important recent research both in their own lab as well as by others in the field. Topics ranged from basic to clinical research, and include inflammation and immunology, peripheral and central nervous system, diagnosis, and treatment of ocular pain. A summary of the white papers was distributed to participants before the workshop.

The program consisted of two days of brief topic overviews with an emphasis on discussion (see Agenda).

Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health