Ethanol in tears can cause development of ocular diseases

May 8, 2012

Orally administered ethanol is secreted into tears and can cause the development of ocular surface diseases.

Orally administered ethanol is secreted into tears and can cause the development of ocular surface diseases, claims a study in the journal Ophthalmology.

The case control study, led by Dr Joo Hyun Kim, Department of Ophthalmology, Hallym University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea, included 20 healthy male subjects with no prior ocular surface diseases. Ten participants received ethanol orally at 8 pm for two hours and ten were placed in the control group.

The main outcome measures were tear osmolarity, ethanol concentration in tears and serum, Schirmer's test results, tear film break-up time (TBUT), corneal punctuate erosion and corneal sensitivity. Tear film and ocular surface were measured at 6 pm before drinking, at midnight and at 6 am and 8 am the following morning.

Mean tear osmolarity increased in the ethanol group, compared to the control group. The ethanol group demonstrated a significantly shorter TBUT after drinking alcohol.

The fluorescein staining scores were significantly higher in the alcohol group compared to the control group at 6 am and 8 am. However, there were no changes in corneal sensitivity or Schirmer's test results.

Ethanol in tears caused the development hyperosmolarity and reduced TBUT. These changes could worsen signs and symptoms in patients with ocular surface disease.