This study aimed to use a mouse model of dry eye disease (DED) induced by topical administration of benzalkonium chloride (BAK) and assess its stability and the presence of neurosensory abnormalities, including ocular pain. Eight-week-old C57BL6/6 N male mice were used in this study. Mice were treated with 10 μL of 0.2% BAK dissolved in artificial tears (AT), administered twice daily for 7 days. After one week, animals were randomized into two groups: one was administered with 0.2% BAK in AT once per day for 7 days, while the other was not further treated. Corneal epitheliopathy was quantified at days 0, 3, 7, 12, and 14. Moreover, tear secretions, corneal nociception, and corneal nerve integrity were measured after BAK treatment. After sacrifice, corneas were dissected to assess nerve density and leukocyte infiltration by immunofluorescence. Topical BAK instillation for 14 days significantly increased corneal fluorescein staining (p < 0.0001) compared to day 0. On the other hand, interruption of BAK instillation was associated with improvement of corneal epitheliopathy (day 12, p < 0.0001; day 14, p < 0.001). BAK treatment increased ocular pain (p < 0.0001) and resulted in a significant increase in leukocyte infiltration in the cornea (p < 0.01). Moreover, corneal sensitivity was reduced (p < 0.0001), together with corneal nerve density (p < 0.0001) and tear secretion (p < 0.0001). One week twice a day, followed by one additional week once a day, of 0.2% BAK topical administration induces stable clinical and histological signs of DED, which is associated with neurosensory abnormalities, including pain.
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