Study: Prototype imager of tear film sublayers opens eyes on dry eye

October 24, 2019
Dry eye and its symptoms—including red, itchy eyes and blurry vision—drive many patients to see their eye doctors.
Male - Dry Eye

A key to understanding and diagnosing dry eye is accurate information on the stability of the tear film and its complex sublayers. In an Oct. 4 article in Applied Optics, researchers tout new and innovative technology—a noninvasive tear film imager—which can provide a better picture for eye doctors.

Although it is a prototype, the imager provides dynamic mapping of the tear film, authors say in the article.

The authors were affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, the Food and Drug Administration, AdOM Advanced Optical Methods in Israel, and the Jerusalem College of Technology.    

"We have developed an optical imaging system, the tear film imager (TFI), which is the first instrument that can directly image the muco-aqueous tear layer physical dimension in vivo and evaluate its parameters in a noninvasive mode with nanometer axial resolution," the authors write.

"This instrument provides quantified information about many attributes of the tear film, including muco-aqueous layer thickness, lipid layer thickness, thickness change rate, and the break-up time," they add.

Dry eye remains one of the most frequent reasons patients cite in seeking out their eye doctors.

Practical and easy to use

Mile Brujic, O.D., practices full-scope optometry in Ohio. Among the areas of emphasis in his practice is dry eye. He has written and spoken extensively on the subject.  "To the best of my knowledge, this is the first imaging device that provides the thickness of the muco-aqueous tear layer," Dr. Brujic says. "This is a welcome addition.

"A tear film imager could provide valuable insights into the dynamics of the tear film," he adds. "It also certainly is one of those measurements that could alert the eye care provider to understand the reason for compromise and provide appropriate guidance to patients."

Yet, with any innovation, usability in a clinical setting will be a factor in its development.

"Technologies have to be practical and easy to use in order to be embraced by the eye care practitioner," Dr. Brujic notes. "If the measurements are easily acquired and highly accurate, it (the imager) provides a promising platform for widespread implementation in optometry."

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