Relationship between goblet cell density and tear function tests

Anna Chwee Hong Yeo, Andrew Carkeet, Leo G. Carney, Keng Hung Maurice Yap

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: The objective of this study was to find a relationship between goblet cell density (GCD) and other diagnostic tests of dry eye in a group of normal healthy Chinese subjects. The capability of using GCD as a tear function test was assessed. Method: A total of 42 optometry students with no contact lens wear history were recruited. Subjects were required to fill in a dry eye questionnaire. The non-invasive tear break-up time (NITBUT) of each subject was measured, followed by phenol red thread test (PRTT) and tear break-up time (TBUT) tests. Conjunctival epithelial cells from the inferior nasal bulbar conjunctiva were harvested by the impression cytology technique. The specimens collected were labelled and stained with PAS (Periodic Acid Schiff)- haematoxylin. The goblet cells and the conjunctival epithelial cells were counted under a light microscope of 100× magnification. Spearman's rho (p) correlation test was used to analyse the relationship between GCD and the other tear function tests. Results: With a probability level of 0.0051 (corrected for a cumulative familywise error rate of p = 0.05), GCD was found to have no correlation with NITBUT (p = -0.193, p = 0.222), McMonnies Dry Eye Scores (MCDES) (p = -0.052, p = 0.742), PRTT (p = -0.188, p = 0.234) and TBUT (p = 0.246, p = 0.117). Conclusion: There was no correlation between GCD and MCDES, NITBUT, PRTT and TBUT. The GCD alone is not a useful diagnostic test for tear film instability in normal eyes although it is a good indicator in the diagnosis of ocular surface diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


  • Goblet cell density
  • Impression cytology
  • Mucin deficiency
  • Non-invasive tear break-up time
  • Phenol red thread test
  • Tear break-up time
  • Tear stability
  • Tear volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Optometry
  • Sensory Systems


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