Schirmer Tear Test: Reference Value

The eye maintains a stable level of moisture and eliminates foreign particles by producing tears. When your eyes are too dry or too wet, your doctor may perform the Schirmer’s test.

The Schirmer’s test is also known as the:

  • dry eye test
  • tear test
  • tearing test
  • Basal secretion test

The Schirmer’s test is primarily used to diagnose dry eye syndrome. This is a condition that occurs when the tear glands are unable to produce enough tears to keep the eyes moist. As a result, the eyes can’t get rid of dust and other irritants. This causes stinging, burning, and redness in the eye. Blurred vision is another common symptom of dry eye syndrome.

The likelihood of developing dry eye increases with age. The condition is most common in people age 50 and older. It’s estimated that there are 5 million Americans in this age group with the condition. The majority of them are women, but dry eye does occur in many men as well.

Why Is the Schirmer’s Test Performed?

Your doctor will order a Schirmer’s test if they suspect that your eyes are producing either too many or too few tears. The test may be done on one eye or both eyes, but it’s typically done in both. Abnormal test results will prompt your doctor to look for the underlying cause of your condition.

Potential causes of dry eyes include:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • changes in season or climate
  • eyelid or facial surgery
  • laser eye surgery
  • leukemia
  • lymphoma
  • lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines or decongestants
  • vitamin A deficiency

Potential causes of excess tears include:

  • climate, particularly cold and windy weather
  • allergies
  • infections
  • blocked tear ducts
  • complications from dry eyes
  • irritation of the eye
  • ingrown eyelashes
  • the common cold
  • pink eye
  • reactions to certain medications, including diuretics and sleeping pills

Reference Value

If your eyes are healthy, each strip of paper should contain more than 10 millimeters of moisture. Less than 10 millimeters of moisture indicates that you probably have dry eye syndrome. Dry eye could just be a symptom of aging, or it could be a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. More tests will likely be required to diagnose the specific cause of your dry eyes.

If your eyes produce more than 10 to 15 millimeters of moisture, further tests may also be required to determine the cause of your watery eyes.


Keyword: Schirmer tear test.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.