The Dry Eye Zone

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Abstract: Solute gradient in the tear meniscus

A solute gradient in the tear meniscus. II. Implications for lid margin disease, including meibomian gland dysfunction.

We have hypothesized previously that evaporation from the tears generates a solute gradient across the tear meniscus, which delivers hyperosmolar stress to the mucocutaneous junction (MCJ) of the lid margin. This is proposed as the basis for Marx's line, a line of staining with topically applied dyes that lies directly behind the MCJ. In this article, we consider the implications of this hypothesis for progressive damage to the lid margin as an age-related phenomenon, its amplification in dry eye states, and its possible role in the etiology of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). It is suggested that a hyperosmolar or related stimulus, acting behind the MCJ over a lifetime, promotes the anterior migration of the MCJ, which is a feature of the aging lid margin. This mechanism would be amplified in dry eye states, not only by reason of increased tear molarity at the meniscus apex but also by raising the concentration of inflammatory peptides at this site. This could explain the increased width and irregularity of Marx's line in dry eye. While the presence of stem cells at the lid margin may equip this region to respond to such stress, their depletion could be the basis of irreversible lid margin damage. It is further proposed, given the proximity of the MCJ to the meibomian gland orifices, that the solute gradient mechanism could play a role in the initiation of MGD by delivering hyperosmolar and inflammatory stresses to the terminal ducts and orifices of the glands. By the same token, the presence of a zone of increased epithelial permeability in this region may provide a back door route for the delivery of drugs in the treatment of MGD.

Ocul Surf. 2011 Apr;9(2):92-7.
Bron AJ, Yokoi N, Gaffney EA, Tiffany JM.
Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.