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Jason J. Nichols, G. Lynn Mitchell, P. Ewen King-Smith; Thinning Rate of the Precorneal and Prelens Tear Films. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2005;46(7):2353-2361. doi: 10.1167/iovs.05-0094.
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purpose. To apply interferometry as an in vivo measure of tear film thinning between blinks.
methods. Wavelength-dependent interference was used to measure the tear film thinning rates in 20 normal contact lens wearers, and spectra were captured at a rate of 4.5 per second for 20 seconds. Four recordings of precorneal tear film (PCTF) thinning were made, followed by 1 hour of hydrogel lens wear and then four recordings of prelens tear film (PLTF) thinning. Subjects were asked to blink 1 second after the beginning of the recording and then hold their eyes open for an additional 19 seconds, followed by 2 minutes of rest between recordings.
results. The average thinning rate of the PLTF was greater than that of the PCTF and average initial tear film thickness of the PLTF was less than that of the PCTF. For both these reasons, the “tear thinning time” (time to reach 0 thickness) was typically shorter for the PLTF than for the PCTF. Histograms of PCTF and PLTF thinning rates showed a narrow peak corresponding to slow thinning of approximately 1 μm/min, but also many examples of rapid thinning of approximately 10 μm/min, with greater variability. Both the initial thickness and thinning rate of the PLTF correlated with corresponding values for the PCTF, although many more rapidly changing values were associated with the PLTF. Plots of rapid thinning of PCTF and PLTF were both linear and were not accompanied by any significant increase in thickness of corneal epithelium or contact lens, respectively.
conclusions. Tear film thinning can be analyzed in terms of flow in three spatial directions: (1) outward (evaporation), (2) inward (into the epithelium or contact lens), and (3) parallel to the tear film surface. The results indicate that the second mechanism may be unimportant. Studies have shown a range of tear film evaporation rates from 0.24 to 1.45 μm/min, whereas, when the lipid layer is washed away from the tear film, the thinning rate, due to evaporation, would be approximately 7μm/min. Thus, slow thinning rates may be due to tear film evaporation, whereas rapid rates (which are often greater than 7 μm/min) presumably include other mechanisms such as dewetting, Marangoni flow (i.e., surface tension gradients), and pressure–gradient flow.
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