Tear production testing

Assesses ocular moisture levels, crucial for diagnosing dry eye syndrome and maintaining eye health.

Table of Contents

Understanding Tear Production


Tear production, or lacrimation, is vital for maintaining ocular surface health by providing lubrication, nourishment, and protection against environmental insults. Insufficient tear production can lead to ocular surface dryness, irritation, and inflammation, predisposing animals to corneal ulceration and vision impairment.

Importance of Tear Production Testing

Tear production testing is crucial for diagnosing and managing conditions affecting tear secretion, such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dry eye syndrome. By assessing tear production, veterinarians can identify underlying causes of ocular surface disease and implement appropriate treatment strategies to restore ocular health and comfort.

Methods of Tear Production Testing

Schirmer Tear Test (STT)

The Schirmer tear test (STT) is the most commonly used method for assessing tear production in veterinary medicine. During an STT, specialized paper strips are placed in the lower conjunctival fornix to absorb tears over a specified period (usually 60 seconds). The length of wetting on the strip indicates the quantity of tears produced.

Phenol Red Thread Test (PRTT)

The phenol red thread test (PRTT) is another method for measuring tear production, particularly in cases where the STT is impractical or poorly tolerated. This test utilizes specialized threads impregnated with a dye that changes color upon contact with tears. The length of the colored portion of the thread reflects tear production.

Clinical Significance and Interpretation

Diagnosis of Dry Eye Syndrome

Tear production testing is instrumental in diagnosing dry eye syndrome (KCS) by assessing the quantity and quality of tears produced. Reduced tear production on tear tests, along with clinical signs such as ocular discharge, corneal opacity, and conjunctival inflammation, supports a diagnosis of KCS.

Monitoring Disease Progression

Tear production testing is used to monitor disease progression and treatment response in animals with dry eye syndrome. Serial tear tests allow veterinarians to evaluate the efficacy of tear stimulants, lubricants, and immunomodulatory therapies in managing KCS and maintaining ocular surface health.

Considerations and Limitations

Factors Affecting Tear Production

Various factors, including age, breed, medication use, ocular inflammation, and systemic diseases, can influence tear production test results. Veterinarians must consider these factors when interpreting tear test results and formulating treatment plans for individual patients.

Variability in Test Results

Tear production test results can vary depending on factors such as patient temperament, environmental conditions, and testing technique. Standardization of testing protocols and careful interpretation of results are essential to minimize variability and ensure accurate diagnosis and management of ocular surface disorders.


Tear production testing is a cornerstone of veterinary ophthalmology, providing valuable information about ocular surface health and diagnosing conditions such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye syndrome). By understanding the principles, methods, clinical significance, and limitations of tear production testing, veterinarians can effectively assess tear secretion, diagnose ocular surface diseases, and implement appropriate treatment strategies to improve patient comfort and visual function.

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