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Clinical and biochemical analysis of the ageing tear film


Background Tear film stability is important for healthy visual function, and yet little is known of the ageing mechanisms. The aim of this study was to investigate parallels between biochemical changes and clinical physical parameters, which occur in the tear film of two subject populations differing in age by over 30 years.

Methods Two distinct age groups were chosen: 11 ‘younger’ (23.7±2.1 years) and 19 ‘older’ (63.0±4.0 years) subjects. A series of clinical tests were performed to access tear volume, tear film stability and general ocular health. Tear protein analyses from extracted Schirmer strips were conducted with the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer.

Results Clinical investigations highlighted significant differences between the age groups. For example: McMonnies scores (p=0.009) and bulbar redness (p=0.038) were higher for the older group, whereas tear meniscus height was larger (p=0.018) in the younger group. Similarly, relative plasma-derived albumin levels were higher (17.1%±12.4%) in the tears of the older, compared with the younger (5.0%±9.6%) group. A protein peak at ∼23 kDa was observed in 53% of the older group samples but in only 36% of the samples of the younger subjects (p=0.122).

Conclusions Distinct differences in tear film composition between the two age groups were observed. Parallels in terms of clinical symptoms which reflected a biochemical response (and vice versa) were found, but specific correlations between clinical measurements and biomarkers for individual subjects were not observed.

  • tear protein
  • tear film stability
  • corneal haemostasis
  • ageing biomarkers

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