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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2000 Dec;41(13):4117-23.

Optical and visual impact of tear break-up in human eyes.

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School of Optometry, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.



The purpose of this study was to examine the optical and visual impact of tear break-up.


Optical quality of the eye was assessed during periods of nonblinking by quantifying vessel contrast in the fundus image and by monitoring the psychophysical contrast sensitivity and the spatial distribution of tear thickness changes by retroillumination. All measures were obtained from three eyes either with or without a soft contact lens.


A noticeable decrease in retinal vessel contrast and contrast sensitivity were observed soon after a blink. Both of these measures of optical quality of the eye showed a similar pattern of image degradation both with and without a soft contact lens. Although trial-to-trial variability was considerable, sample means show that image contrast in the low spatial frequency range can drop to between 20% and 40% of initial values after 60 seconds of nonblinking. Retroillumination of the tear film showed local intensity fluctuations that progressively spread across the pupil with increasing time after the blink.


Optical aberrations created by tear break-up contribute to the decline in image quality observed objectively and psychophysically. The decline in image quality that accompanies tear break-up may be a direct cause of the blurry vision complaints commonly encountered in dry-eye patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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