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Wing Li, Meng C. Lin; Pain Sensitivity Associated With the Length of the Maximum Interblink Period. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(1):238-245. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.17-22950.
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Pain sensitivity has been identified as a factor that affects how individuals answer dry eye questionnaires, but it is unknown how it affects ocular discomfort. This study used the time that individuals could refrain from blinking as an indicator of ocular discomfort and set out to determine whether it was related to pain sensitivity, while adjusting for ocular surface conditions.
Subjects first completed the Pain Sensitivity Questionnaire to quantify pain sensitivity levels. Exposed interpalpebral area, tear meniscus height, tear-film lipid layer thickness, ocular surface cooling, and noninvasive tear breakup were assessed. Subjects were then asked to refrain from blinking until the initial onset of discomfort, which was termed “the maximum interblink period” (MIBP), while ocular surface cooling rate was simultaneously measured. Subjects were seen for four visits over a course of 2 days.
Forty-two subjects (36 females, 6 males) completed the study, with a mean (SD) age of 23.2 (3.8) years. A longer MIBP was associated with decreased pain sensitivity (P = 0.04), lower ocular surface cooling rate (P < 0.001), and Asian ethnicity (P = 0.005). Based on the results from the mixed-effect model, it is estimated that individuals would be able to refrain from blinking for an additional 4 seconds if they had the lowest (0.6) compared to the highest (6.1) pain sensitivity in the study cohort.
The Pain Sensitivity Questionnaire was associated with the MIBP length even after adjusting for ocular surface conditions, which suggests that pain sensitivity plays a role in influencing how ocular discomfort is perceived.
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