Purpose: To demonstrate the effects of prolonged silent reading on tear film and ocular surface parameters. Design: Prospective, observational clinical study. Participants: A total of 177 patients with dry eye and 34 normal controls aged 50 years and older. Methods: After evaluating symptoms using the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire, the following tests were performed in consecutive order: automated noninvasive tear break-up time (TBUT), surface asymmetry and regularity indices, Schirmer's testing without anesthesia, corneal staining using fluorescein, and conjunctival staining using lissamine green. The participants were then asked to read a 30-minute validated passage silently. The tests were repeated after the reading task. Main Outcome Measures: Changes in tear film and ocular surface parameters after reading. Results: All parameters, with the exception of surface asymmetry index, worsened after the reading task in patients with dry eye and in controls. The worsening reached a statistical significance for corneal and conjunctival staining in the dry eye group (P < 0.001) and for corneal staining in the control group (P < 0.01). At baseline, OSDI scores correlated only with corneal and conjunctival staining scores (r = 0.19, P = 0.006 and r = 0.27, P < 0.001). Among postreading measurements, baseline OSDI scores correlated with TBUT (r = −0.15, P = 0.03) in addition to corneal and conjunctival staining (r = 0.25, P < 0.001 and r = 0.22, P = 0.001). Changes in TBUT and Schirmer's test correlated significantly with their respective baseline values (r = −0.61, P < 0.001 and r = −0.44, P < 0.001), indicating that the more unstable the tear film and the lower the aqueous tear secretion, the worse they became after the prolonged reading task. Worsening in corneal staining directly correlated with the baseline conjunctival staining (r = 0.17, P = 0.02) and surface regularity index (r = 0.21, P = 0.01). Conclusions: Evaluating tear film and ocular surface parameters at rest may miss clinical findings brought about by common everyday tasks such as reading, leading to discordance between patient-reported symptoms and clinician-observed signs. Quantifying dry eye after visually straining activities such as prolonged silent reading may help better understand patient symptomatology.
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