High resolution microscopy of the lipid layer of the tear film

Academic Article


  • Tear film evaporation is controlled by the lipid layer and is an important factor in dry eye conditions. Because the barrier to evaporation depends on the structure of the lipid layer, a high resolution microscope has been constructed to study the lipid layer in dry and in normal eyes. The microscope incorporates the following features. First, a long working distance microscope objective is used with a high numerical aperture and resolution. Second, because such a high resolution objective has limited depth of focus, 2000 images are recorded with a video camera over a 20-sec period, with the expectation that some images will be in focus. Third, illumination is from a stroboscopic light source having a brief flash duration, to avoid blurring from movement of the lipid layer. Fourth, the image is in focus when the edge of the image is sharp - this feature is used to select images in good focus. Fifth, an aid is included to help align the cornea at normal incidence to the axis of the objective so that the whole lipid image can be in focus. High resolution microscopy has the potential to elucidate several characteristics of the normal and abnormal lipid layer, including different objects and backgrounds, changes in the blink cycle, stability and fluidity, dewetting, gel-like properties and possible relation to lipid domains. It is expected that high resolution microscopy of the lipid layer will provide information about the mechanisms of dry eye disorders. Illustrative results are presented, derived from over 10,000 images from 375 subjects. ©2011 Ethis Communications, Inc.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • King-Smith PE; Nichols JJ; Braun RJ; Nichols KK
  • Start Page

  • 197
  • End Page

  • 211
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 4