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Math Med Biol. 2019 Mar 14;36(1):55-91. doi: 10.1093/imammb/dqx021.

Mathematical modelling of glob-driven tear film breakup.

Author information

Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, USA.
School of Optometry, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.
College of Optometry, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.


Evaporation is a recognized contributor to tear film thinning and tear breakup (TBU). Recently, a different type of TBU is observed, where TBU happens under or around a thick area of lipid within a second after a blink. The thick lipid corresponds to a glob. Evaporation alone is too slow to offer a complete explanation of this breakup. It has been argued that the major reason of this rapid tear film thinning is divergent flow driven by a lower surface tension of the glob (via the Marangoni effect). We examine the glob-driven TBU hypothesis in a 1D streak model and axisymmetric spot model. In the model, the streak or spot glob has a localized high surfactant concentration, which is assumed to lower the tear/air surface tension and also to have a fixed size. Both streak and spot models show that the Marangoni effect can lead to strong tangential flow away from the glob and may cause TBU. The models predict that smaller globs or thinner films will decrease TBU time (TBUT). TBU is located underneath small globs, but may occur outside larger globs. In addition to tangential flow, evaporation can also contribute to TBU. This study provides insights about mechanism of rapid thinning and TBU which occurs very rapidly after a blink and how the properties of the globs affect the TBUT.


Marangoni effect; dry eye; tear breakup; tear film; thin film

[Available on 2020-03-14]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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