The role of tear physiology in ocular surface temperature

Eye (Lond). 2000 Aug;14 ( Pt 4):635-41. doi: 10.1038/eye.2000.156.


Purpose: To determine whether the more rapid cooling of the tear film in dry eyes is related to other tear film parameters, a battery of tear physiology tests was performed on dry eye patients and control subjects.

Methods: Tear evaporation rate was measured with a modified Servomed (vapour pressure) evaporimeter and ocular temperature with an NEC San-ei 6T62 Thermo Tracer in 9 patients diagnosed as having dry eye and in 13 healthy control subjects. Variability in temperature across the ocular surface was described by the temperature variation factor (TVF). Lipid layer structure and tear film stability were assessed with the Keeler Tearscope and tear osmolality was measured by freezing point depression nanolitre osmometry.

Results: The data were explored by principal component analysis. The subjects with and without dry eye could be separated into two distinct groups entirely on the basis of their tear physiology. Dry eye patients exhibited higher tear evaporation rates, osmolalities and TVF, lower tear film stabilities and poorer-quality lipid layers than the control subjects. A significant linear relationship was found to exist between tear evaporation rate and TVF for all subjects (R2 = 0.242, p = 0.024).

Conclusions: Rapid cooling of the tear film in dry eyes appears to be related to the reduced stability of the tears and the increased rate of evaporation. The higher latent heat of vaporisation, associated with the increased evaporation in dry eyes, may account for the increased rate of cooling of the tear film in this condition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Tears / chemistry
  • Tears / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • Thermography


  • Lipids