Effect of viscosity on tear drainage and ocular residence time

Optom Vis Sci. 2008 Aug;85(8):715-25. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3181824dc4.


Purpose: An increase in residence time of dry eye medications including artificial tears will likely enhance therapeutic benefits. The drainage rates and the residence time of eye drops depend on the viscosity of the instilled fluids. However, a quantitative understanding of the dependence of drainage rates and the residence time on viscosity is lacking. The current study aims to develop a mathematical model for the drainage of Newtonian fluids and also for power-law non-Newtonian fluids of different viscosities.

Methods: This study is an extension of our previous study on the mathematical model of tear drainage. The tear drainage model is modified to describe the drainage of Newtonian fluids with viscosities higher than the tear viscosity and power-law non-Newtonian fluids with rheological parameters obtained from fitting experimental data in literature. The drainage rate through canaliculi was derived from the modified drainage model and was incorporated into a tear mass balance to calculate the transients of total solute quantity in ocular fluids and the bioavailability of instilled drugs.

Results: For Newtonian fluids, increasing the viscosity does not affect the drainage rate unless the viscosity exceeds a critical value of about 4.4 cp. The viscosity has a maximum impact on drainage rate around a value of about 100 cp. The trends are similar for shear thinning power law fluids. The transients of total solute quantity, and the residence time agrees at least qualitatively with experimental studies.

Conclusions: A mathematical model has been developed for the drainage of Newtonian fluids and power-law fluids through canaliculi. The model can quantitatively explain different experimental observations on the effect of viscosity on the residence of instilled fluids on the ocular surface. The current study is helpful for understanding the mechanism of fluid drainage from the ocular surface and for improving the design of dry eye treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Cornea / metabolism*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Biological*
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / pharmacokinetics
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Tears / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Viscosity


  • Ophthalmic Solutions