Schirmer tearing test is used to assess the volume of the tear (lacrimal) glands in people with chronically dry eyes. A thin strip of filter paper is inserted inside each lower eyelid; the amount of moisture absorbed by the paper provides a measure of tear production in the eyes.
Purpose of the Schirmer Tearing Test
- To measure tear secretion in people with suspected tearing deficiency
- To evaluate whether the eye is producing enough tears
Who Performs It
- An ophthalmologist, an optometrist, a nurse, or a lab technician.
- Closing the eyes too tightly during the test will increase tearing, altering the results.
- The Schirmer test is quick and simple, but provides only a rough estimate of tear secretion. A positive result for tearing deficiency requires corroboration by a special microscopic examination of the eye (slit-lamp examination) that uses a colored dye, called the rose bengal stain, for confirmation.
Before the Schirmer Tearing Test
- If you wear contact lenses, remove them before the test.
- Do not use eye drops for 1 hour before the procedure.
What You Experience
- You will sit in an examining chair.
- You will be instructed to look up, and the examiner will gently insert a thin strip of filter paper inside the lower lid of each eye. The strips are left in place for 5 minutes. Blinking normally or keeping your eyes lightly closed does not interfere with the test, but avoid squeezing or rubbing your eyes.
- The test strip is removed, and the amount of moisture absorbed by the strip is measured.
- In some cases, the test is repeated after anesthetic eye drops have been instilled in each eye.
- The procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
Risks and Complications
After the Schirmer Tearing Test
- If anesthetic eye drops were administered, do not rub your eyes for at least 30 minutes to avoid injuring the cornea.
- Do not reinsert your contact lenses for at least 2 hours after the test.
- You may resume your normal activities.
- The doctor will review the test results to determine whether tearing deficiency is present. More than 10 mm of moisture on the filter paper after 5 minutes is a sign of normal tear production. Possible causes of insufficient tearing include Sjögren‘s syndrome (a chronic inflammatory disorder marked by dry eyes and mouth) and dry-eye syndrome, which may be a side effect of certain drugs or may be caused by allergies or other disorders.
- If the results are negative, no further testing is required.
- If the results are positive, your doctor may order a slit-lamp examination with rose bengal stain if it has not already been done. If Sjögren‘s syndrome is suspected, a lower lip biopsy may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests
Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor
Updated by Remedy Health Media