Phosphate concentration in artificial tears

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2006 Aug;244(8):1010-4. doi: 10.1007/s00417-005-0219-9. Epub 2006 Jan 18.


Background: Irrigating solutions and eye drops may contain phosphates as part of their buffer system. In the presence of epithelial keratopathy, a high concentration of phosphate favours corneal calcification. Knowledge of the phosphate concentration in artificial tear products helps to prevent this sight-threatening complication. This study gives an overview on the amount of phosphate contained in artificial tears.

Methods: Fifty-nine samples of commercially available artificial tear preparations were tested. The quantification of phosphate was performed using the molybdate method on a Modular P autoanalyzer.

Results: Twenty-six of 59 (44%) artificial tear products had a phosphate concentration above physiological levels (>1.45 mmol/l). A phosphate concentration above 25 mmol/l was found in nine products (15%), a concentration higher than 50 mmol/l in three (5%).

Conclusions: Many artificial tear formulations contain unphysiological levels of phosphate, but very high concentrations are found only in a few products. These preparations have the potential to favour the formation of insoluble crystalline calcium phosphate deposits when used on a damaged corneal surface, and should therefore be used cautiously.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Autoanalysis
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / chemistry*
  • Phosphates / analysis*


  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Phosphates