The Dry Eye Zone

Rebecca's Blog


Camel tears

Camel spit is perhaps the dry eye community's proxy phrase for snake oil. It's been used over and over as the classic hyperbole to explain the lengths dry eye patients will go to to get relief: "I'd even put camel spit in my eyes if I thought it would help!"

And if you're a frequenter of online patient forums and groups, you know that this sentiment is rather well borne out by the variety of things people really DO report putting in their eyes. 

Anyway, that's why this study from Saudi Arabia caught my eye. It compares human tears, camel tears and Refresh Plus. 

Oh for some camel tears!

Mol Vis. 2018 Apr 16;24:305-314. eCollection 2018.
Structure and microanalysis of tear film ferning of camel tears, human tears, and Refresh Plus.
Am M, Ra F, El-Naggar AH, Tm A; Akhtar S.

This study aimed to investigate the tear ferning pattern and chemical elements of the tear film of camel tears compared with human tears and Refresh Plus eye lubricant. Refresh Plus was used as a control because it provides a healthy ferning pattern, due to the presence of an optimum ratio of carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) sodium and electrolytes. The main research focus is elucidating the viability of camel tear film in the dry, harsh environment of the desert.

The tears were collected from five camels, five male desert workers (20-25 years old) at a small village located 100 km from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and five male subjects (20-25 years old) from Riyadh. A small drop (1 μl) of tears was dried on a glass slide and observed under a light (Olympus BX1) and scanning electron microscope (Inspect S50, Field Electron and Ion Company [FEI]). Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) of the tear film and Refresh Plus were investigated with a JEOL 1400 scanning transmission electron microscope.

The camel tear film pattern was surrounded by thick, peripheral, homogenous layers containing small oily droplets, particles, and tiny branches in the tear ferning. The tear ferning of the camel was grade 0-1, whereas the tear ferning of human tears and Refresh Plus was grade 1-2. The mass percentage of chloride was highest in the camel tears. The mass percentage of potassium in the camel tears was greater than that in the human tears, but it was less than that in the Refresh Plus lubricant.

Camel tears exhibit a better quality than human tears and Refresh Plus lubricant do. The presence of oily droplet-like structures at the periphery of tear ferning suggests that camel tear film may have a higher quality and quantity of minerals and lubricants, which may help the animal to avoid eye dryness. Future work is required to investigate the identification of the elements present in the peripheral and central part of the tear ferning.