Tear Osmolarity and Correlation With Ocular Surface Parameters in Patients With Dry Eye

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To analyze the distribution of tear film osmolarity in patients with dry eye and its association with other ocular surface parameters.


Tear osmolarity and other quantitative dry eye parameters were obtained from patients with 1) clinically significant dry eye (significant symptoms and ocular surface staining, n = 131), 2) symptoms-only dry eye (significant symptoms but no significant ocular surface staining, n = 52), and 3) controls (no significant symptoms or staining, n = 42).


Tear osmolarity varied significantly across groups (P = 0.01), with patients with clinically significant dry eye having the highest tear osmolarity (312.0 ± 16.9 mOsm/L), control patients having the lowest tear osmolarity (305.6 ± 9.7 mOsm/L), and patients with symptoms-only dry eye falling in between (307.4 ± 5.6 mOsm/L). Patients with clinically significant dry eye also tended to have a greater intereye difference in osmolarity (12.0 ± 13.4) than did the individuals with symptoms-only dry eye (9.1 ± 12.4) and controls (9.0 ± 7.4) (P = 0.06). In multivariable regression models, higher tear osmolarity was associated with higher Ocular Surface Disease Index, discomfort subscore (P = 0.02), and higher corneal and conjunctival staining scores (P < 0.01 for both). Worse eye tear osmolarity was not correlated with the corresponding tear film breakup time or Schirmer test (P > 0.05 for both).


Individuals with symptomatic dry eye that is not yet clinically significant seem to have higher and more variable osmolarity measurements than controls, potentially indicating that changes in osmolarity precede clinical findings.

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