Clinical and biochemical analysis of the ageing tear film

Aisling Mann, Darren Campbell, Zeba Mirza, Olivia Hunt, James Stuart Wolffsohn, Brian J Tighe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 1/423 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1028-1032
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number7
Early online date11 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License

Funding: British Contact Lens Association Summer Research Scholarship.


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


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