The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between the tear film and humidity by examining whether alterations in periocular humidity influence the thickness of the tear film lipid layer. Thirteen dry eye subjects presenting with a baseline lipid layer thickness of <=60 nm were fitted with modified swim goggles in which the right eye (OD) was exposed to conditions of high humidity and the left eye (OS) remained exposed to ambient room conditions. The lipid layer was monitored over a 60-min time course with goggles on and for an additional 60 min following goggle removal. The OD lipid layer increased significantly in thickness within 5 min of exposure to conditions of high humidity (p<0.0001), reaching a maximum increase of 66.4 nm after 15 min of goggle wear (p<0.0001). This maximum increase to a lipid layer thickness of 120.5 nm was maintained at the 30- and 60-min goggle time points. No significant change was detected OS. Following goggle removal, OD values declined but remained significantly elevated over the OS lipid layer thickness throughout the 60-min postgoggle period. Moderate to total relief of dry eye symptoms was reported during goggle wear and generally persisted at a reduced level for 1-3 h following goggle removal. Increased periocular humidity results in an increase in tear film lipid layer thickness, possibly by providing an environment that is more conducive to the spreading of meibomian lipid and its incorporation into the tear film.
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