To explore objective visual quality in dry eye diseases (DED) and the correlation between corneal nerves and objective visual quality.
Ninety-eight eyes of 49 patients with DED were included. Each patient was evaluated with the ocular surface disease index (OSDI), eyelid margin signs and meibomian gland assessments; corneal staining; tear film breakup time (TBUT); tear meniscus height (TMH); in vivo confocal microscopic (IVCM); objective visual quality including the objective scatter index (OSI), mean objective scattering index (mOSI), modulation transfer function (MTF) cutoff value and Strehl ratio.
A significant correlation was found between the OSDI and mOSI ( r = 0.422, p = 0.005), MTF cutoff value ( r = − 0.355, p = 0.020), and Strehl ratio ( r = − 0.446, p = 0.003). The OSI was significantly correlated with TBUTf ( r = − 0.213, p = 0.042). The mOSI, MTF cutoff value, Strehl ratio were correlated with eyelid margin signs and meibomian assessments. Additionally, there was a statistically significant correlation between corneal nerve length and the mOSI ( r = − 0.239, p = 0.037), OSI ( r = − 0.294, p = 0.028), MTF cutoff value( r = 0.282, p = 0.012), and Strehl ratio ( r = 0.299, p = 0.008).
Our study explored that objective visual quality was correlated with clinical symptoms and signs in DED patients. Furthermore, for the first time, our study explored the relationship between corneal nerves and objective visual quality and discovered that longer and wider corneal nerves were associated with better objective visual quality, which suggested that nerve changes may be a factor that related to poor visual quality in DED patients.