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Effect of Contact Lens Materials on Tear Physiology


Articles: Original Article

Purpose. This study measured evaporation rate, thinning characteristics, and lipid layer changes in the prelens tear film (PLTF) associated with wearing of different soft contact lens materials, in an attempt to determine the biocompatibility of the material with the PLTF.

Methods. Twenty habituated contact lens wearers wore five different soft materials in a random order on the left eye at visits separated by at least 24 h. The soft contact lens materials were polymacon (Optima 38), omafilcon A (Proclear Compatibles), phemfilcon A (DuraSoft 2), balafilcon A (PureVision), and etafilcon A (Acuvue). Tear film evaporation rate was measured by a modified Servo Med Evaporimeter and tear thinning time by HirCal grid. Tear film structure, elimination rate, and lens wetting ability were recorded dynamically with a Doane tear film video interferometer and graded according to a new system developed for the study. Baseline measurements were taken of the precorneal tear film before lens insertion, and PLTF was determined 30 min after commencing lens wear.

Results. No statistically significant differences were found for any of the baseline (precorneal tear film) data. There was also no significant difference in evaporation rate change (analysis of variance) and in tear thinning time (Friedmann) between the five contact lenses. In the PLTF structure grading, omafilcon A had significantly more stable grades than phemfilcon A (Friedmann, p = 0.0033) and polymacon (p = 0.004). In PLTF observation of tear thinning and elimination rate, there was a significantly slower rate of elimination observed for omafilcon A than phemfilcon A (Friedmann, p = 0.0023) and polymacon (p = 0.0023). There was no significant difference in the overall PLTF wetting ability grading between any of the lenses worn.

Conclusion. Generally, all soft contact lens materials significantly and adversely affected tear physiology by increasing the evaporation rate and decreasing tear thinning time. The surface wetting ability of all contact lens materials exhibited no significantly difference irrespective of the special surface treatments. Only in PLTF structure and in PLTF elimination rate were differences found from the conventional low water content materials; omafilcon A was better in PLTF structure and in PLTF elimination.

Department of Vision Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland (LCT, AT), Schepens Institute, Boston, Massachusetts (MGD)

Submitted October 25, 2002; accepted December 4, 2003.

Alan Tomlinson

Department of Vision Sciences

Glasgow Caledonian University

Cowcaddens Road

Glasgow G4 0BA

United Kingdom


© 2004 American Academy of Optometry