Basic tear flow. Does it exist?

Ophthalmology. 1980 Sep;87(9):920-30. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(80)35143-9.


Tear flow and volume were measured in 15 normal volunteers, divided into young and old age groups, using subjective fluorophotometric analysis and Schirmer testing with and without topical anesthesia. Proparacaine 0.5% was found to anesthetize cornea and conjunctiva better than cocaine 4% and produced fewer complications. Older subjects responded to stimulation with less reflex tearing than younger subjects, but had an identical rate of physiologic tear flow, and equivalent corneal and conjunctival sensitivity. Tear flow and volume decreased significantly below physiologic values in both age groups following topical anesthetic instillation. Lid margin and cilia stimulation increased the tear turnover rate more than 300% despite adequate topical anesthesia. Flow rates determined by Schirmer testing with topical anesthesia were higher than both physiologic tear flow and tear flow following topical anesthesia when these values were determined by fluorophotometry. As sensory input was decreased, tear secretion fell correspondingly, implying that all significant tear flow results frp, reflex secretion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anesthesia, Local
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fluorometry
  • Humans
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / innervation
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Propoxycaine
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Tears / metabolism
  • Tears / physiology*


  • proxymetacaine
  • Propoxycaine
  • Cocaine