Diagnosing dry eye syndrome 

Your high-street optician (optometrist) or GP can examine your eyes to confirm whether you have dry eye syndrome, and give you advice about treatment.

If the diagnosis is uncertain or specialist tests and treatment are required, you may be referred to a surgeon specialising in eye conditions (ophthalmologist) in hospital.

The tests carried out to assess the quality and quantity of tears are described below.

Fluorescein dye test

Eye drops containing a special yellow-orange dye are used so your specialist can see your tears more clearly. This helps them find out how long it takes for your eye to start drying out.

If there's damage to the surface of the eye, the fluorescein dye test may show up affected areas. The dye is only temporary and won't change the colour of your eye.

Schirmer's test

Small strips of blotting paper are hooked over your lower eyelid. After five minutes, the strips are removed and studied to determine how wet the paper is.

If the paper has wetted less than 10mm in five minutes, this indicates dry eye syndrome.

Lissamine green test

Lissamine green is a special dye in a paper strip. The strip is diluted with saline and dropped on to the surface of your eye.

The distinctive green colour of the eye allows the specialist to see early damage to the surface of the eye.

Page last reviewed: 17/03/2016

Next review due: 01/03/2019