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.

Special Concerns

  • 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

  • None

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

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 24 Jan 2012

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015