Tear film dynamics and lipid layer characteristics--effect of age and gender

Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2010 Aug;33(4):176-82. doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2010.02.003. Epub 2010 Mar 3.


Purpose: Dry eye disease is significantly more prevalent in older subjects and among them more marked in women than men. Further, it is established that the tear film dynamics of dry eye sufferers is different to that of normal. It is therefore postulated that the greater prevalence of dry eye problems with advancing age is at least in part related to poorer tear film dynamics.

Methods: Tear film dynamics (non-invasive break up time) and lipid characteristics (lipid layer thickness and contamination) were assessed using the Tearscope lighting system.

Results: 160 Subjects less than 45 years old and 58 subjects aged 45 years or more formed the study populations. The tear film stability was mostly influenced by age; the break up time was statistically significantly shorter for the older age group (p < 0.001). The lipid layer was also significantly thinner (p = 0.013) for the subjects aged 45 years or older with a very marked synergic effect of age and gender. The lipid layer of older women was significantly thinner and more contaminated than that of younger women (p = 0.002 and < 0.001) and of older men (p = 0.034 and 0.004).

Conclusions: Aging of the tear film is characterised by its destabilisation associated with significant changes in the tear lipid layer producing less protection from evaporation in the older population; the observed changes are more marked in women than in men. The findings have significant implications for the management of presbyopic dry eye sufferers, for whom decreasing evaporative problems is essential.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease Progression
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / metabolism*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lipids / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Tears / chemistry
  • Tears / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Lipids