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P. Ewen King-Smith, Erich A. Hinel, Jason J. Nichols; Application of a Novel Interferometric Method to Investigate the Relation between Lipid Layer Thickness and Tear Film Thinning. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2010;51(5):2418-2423. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.09-4387.
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The lipid layer of the tear film forms a barrier to evaporation. Evaporation is a major cause of tear thinning between blinks and tear breakup. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relation between tear film thinning and lipid layer thickness before and after instillation of an emulsion eye drop.
Fifty non–contact lens wearers were studied. Spectral interferometry was used to measure the thinning rate of the precorneal tear film for up to 19 seconds after a blink. Simultaneously, lipid layer thickness was measured based on an absolute reflectance spectrum. After a 2-minute recovery, the measurement was repeated. A drop of the lipid emulsion was then instilled; 15 minutes later, two interferometry measurements were performed similarly.
A histogram of thinning rates was fitted by a bimodal distribution with narrow and broad peaks corresponding to slow and rapid thinning, respectively. The correlation between repeated thinning rate measurements was modest, but repeatability was considerably more significant when analyzed in terms of the slow/rapid dichotomy. Similarly, the correlation between thinning rate and lipid thickness was modest but was more evident when analyzed in terms of the slow/rapid dichotomy. Instillation of an emulsion eye drop significantly increased the thickness of the lipid layer but did not significantly alter the thinning rate.
The proposed slow/rapid dichotomy of thinning rates presumably relates to a good/poor barrier to evaporation of the lipid layer. The imperfect correlation between thinning rate and lipid thickness indicates that other factors, such as the composition and structure of the lipid layer, are important (e.g., sufficient polar lipids may be needed to form good interface between nonpolar lipids and the aqueous layer).
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