Schirmer’s Test: A Test for Dry Eyes

Schirmer’s test is used to determine whether the eyes make enough tears to keep it moist and healthy. This is done by placing a piece of filter paper in the lower eyelid of both eyes then the eyes are closed for at least 5 minutes. As the filter paper is removed, the doctor will then assess how far the tears have traveled on the paper.

Generally, the lesser moisture on the paper means fewer tears are produced. This test is mainly to diagnose dry eye syndrome.

Schirmer's Test

What is This Test for?

The Schirmer’s test is used to confirm and determine the severity of dry eye, It may also be used in conjunction with other tests to diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that decreases eye and salivary gland function which results to dry eyes.

A person to be tested must remove contact lenses or glasses. In the case of contact lenses, they must bring eyeglasses to wear after the test as the wearing of contact lenses and rubbing the eyes are prohibited for at least 2 hours after the test. The level of tolerance will also be gauged to determine whether the doctor will have to administer numbing drops to lessen discomfort during the test.

A Schirmer’s test is highly recommended for people experiencing symptoms of dry eyes such as:

  • light sensitivity
  • blurred vision
  • a stinging, burning, or scratchy feeling in the eyes
  • difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • poor night vision
  • redness of the eye
  • stringy mucus inside or around the eyes
  • watery eyes
  • eye fatigue
  • a sensation of a foreign object in the eyes

Schirmer's Test

What Do the Results Mean?

The results will be based on the amount of tears produced as measured on the filter paper. A normal tear production should be over 10 millimeters (mm) and all under 10mm is considered low and abnormal. A 5 mm measurement is considered to be a severe case of dry eye.

However, these measurements are directly proportioned to the age of the person under the test. The older the person gets, the fewer tears are produced. Treatment options will vary among the results. Prescription eye drops will commonly be prescribed for people with chronic and mild cases of dry eyes. This is the most typical treatment for dry eyes. In more severe cases of dry eyes, additional treatment and further tests could be required to help treat and manage the condition.

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