In this study, we apply psychophysical scaling principles based on physical (photometric) attributes of images to better understand the factors involved in clinician judgement of ocular surface staining and, using that knowledge, to develop photographic scales for the assessment of staining for dry eye (DE) and related conditions.
Subjects with noninfectious ocular surface staining were enrolled at five clinical sites. Following instillation of fluorescein, photographs of corneal staining were taken every 30 seconds for at least 5 minutes. The same procedure was followed for conjunctival staining after instillation of 2 µl of 1% lissamine green. A subset of the best corneal and bulbar conjunctival staining images were anonymized and a spectroradiometer measured photometric attributes (luminance and chromaticity). The images were scaled psychophysically by study investigators, who participated in constructing grading scales based on physical and psychophysical analyses. The final grading scales were refined following consultation with outside DE experts.
Photographs were collected from 142 subjects (81% women), with an average age of 58 ± 17 years; 89% were diagnosed with DE. There was a monotonic relationship between between physical measurements and psychophysically scaled staining of both corneal (fluorescein) and bulbar (lissamine green) staining. Michelson contrast and u’ (chromaticity) accounted for 66% and 64% of the variability in the psychophysically scaled images of fluorescein corneal and lissamine green conjunctival staining, respectively.
This paper provides examples of the first ever clinically usable ocular surface staining scales validated using psychophysical scaling and the physical attributes (luminance and chromaticity) of the staining itself. In addition, it provides a generalizable method for the development of other clinical scales of ocular appearance.