Menthol is thought to stimulate lacrimation via activation of cold-sensitive primary afferent neurons in the cornea. We evaluated a warm compress containing menthol as a potential treatment for dry eye by examining its effects on the tear film in healthy subjects (n = 20) and dry eye patients (n = 35). Disposable eyelid-warming steamers that either did (MH) or did not (HO) contain menthol were applied to one eye of each subject either once only for 10 min or repeatedly over 2 weeks. Single application of MH significantly increased tear meniscus volume (P = 8.6 × 10-5, P = 1.3 × 10-5) and tear film breakup time (P = 0.006, P = 0.002) as well as improved meibum condition in healthy subjects and dry eye patients, respectively. Repeated application of MH significantly increased tear meniscus volume (P = 0.004, P = 1.7 × 10-4) and tear film breakup time (P = 0.037, P = 0.010) in healthy subjects and dry eye patients, respectively. Repeated application of MH thus induced persistent increases in tear fluid volume and tear film stability in dry eye patients, suggesting that repeated use of a warm compress containing menthol is a potential novel treatment for dry eye disease.
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