Mechanistic determination of tear film thinning via fitting simplified models to tear breakup
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Luke R, Braun R, Begley C. Mechanistic determination of tear film thinning via fitting simplified models to tear breakup. MAIO [Internet]. 2021 Sep. 17 [cited 2021 Oct. 24];3(1):71-100. Available from:

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Rayanne A. Luke, Richard J. Braun, Carolyn G. Begley


dry eye; fluorescent imaging; optimization; tear breakup; tear film


Purpose: Little quantitative or mechanistic information about tear film breakup can be determined directly via current imaging techniques. In this paper, we present simplified mathematical models based on two proposed mechanisms of tear film breakup: evaporation of water from the tear film and tangential fluid flow within the tear film. We use our models to determine whether one or a combination of the two mechanisms causes tear film breakup in a variety of instances. In this study, we estimate related breakup parameters that cannot currently be measured in breakup during subject trials, such as tear film osmolarity and thinning rates. The present study validates our procedure against previous work.
Methods: Five ordinary differential equation models for tear film thinning were designed that model evaporation, osmosis, and various types of tangential flow. Eight tear film breakup instances occurring within a time interval of 1–8 s postblink of five healthy subjects thatwere identified in fluorescence images in previous work were fit with these five models. The fitting procedure used a nonlinear least squares optimization that minimized the dierence of the computed theoretical fluorescent intensity from the models and the experimental fluorescent intensity from the images. The optimization was conducted over the evaporation rate and up to three tangential flow rate parameters. The smallest norm of the difference was determined to correspond to the model that best explained the tear film dynamics.
Results: All of the breakup instances were best fit by models with time-dependent tangential flow. Our optimal parameter values and thinning rate as well as tangential fluid flow profiles compare well with previous partial differential equation model results in most instances.
Conclusion: Our fitting results suggest that a combination of tangential fluid flow and evaporation cause most of the breakup instances. Comparison with results from previous work suggests that the simplified models can capture the essential tear film dynamics in most cases, thereby validating this procedure for wider usage.
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