Schirmer Test: What is It For?

Why should you consider this test? Schirmer’s test isn’t the only one that doctors can do to test for dry eyes. The inventor lived up to a century ago so this test has been around for a while. There are also newer tests available that can detect other causes of dry eyes that this one can’t.

Schirmer Test

Are you suffering from dry eye? It’s important for the human eye to release a certain amount of pressure during the day. This provides various benefits like preventing high pressure. Sometimes eyes become dry due to common factors like dry air around them. It’s important to test whether or not a person has a “dry eye” and that includes the Schirmer test. This is a basic test that includes filter paper to see how many tears it can catch. Fun Fact: Schirmer’s test is named after a German eye doctor born in the mid-1800s. This is a basic yet effective dry eye test.

Why should you consider this test? Schirmer’s test isn’t the only one that doctors can do to test for dry eyes. The inventor lived up to a century ago so this test has been around for a while. There are also newer tests available that can detect other causes of dry eyes that this one can’t. However, Schirmer’s test can help pick the symptoms of dry eyes that can include: pain, irritation, watery, light-sensitivity, etc. Like other basic tests, this is one that doctors might do first to determine whether or not you have a dry eye. It’s a good starting point.

What Is The Schirmer Test?

First, let’s talk about the inventor. it’s named after a German eye doctor named Otto Schirmer. He worked in Germany and the United States. The German doctor used absorbent paper to measure how much moisture the eye was releasing.

The test is quite basic and is usually done on people who have symptoms of dry eye. The doctor first puts one piece of filter paper in both of the patient’s lower eyelids. Then the patient closes their eyes.

After waiting 5 minutes the doctor then takes away the filter paper. He/She checks how far the tears moved on the paper.

What do the results mean? The general rule is less moisture on the filter paper means the patient has produced fewer tears.

It’s important to note that sometimes the doctor might order other tests to help determine the causes of dry eye that Schimer’s test can’t pick up. However, this is certainly a good start because it’s effective and can pick up several causes of dry eye.

This test is done for various reasons. For example, it’s important to know whether or not a person has dry eye. In some cases, they might seem to have some symptoms but don’t’ actually have it.

If the person has a dry eye it’s also important to determine how serious it is. Sometimes it’s a minor case and other times it’s a severe one. A doctor can help diagnose the patient properly by first determining how much moisture the eye is releasing.

This test can also be used to test for other conditions. They include one that lowers how well the moisture-producing glands work.

Other tests are also usually run to figure out if a patient has this condition that’s known as “Sjogren’s syndrome.” So, make sure to check the results of multiple tests to determine whether or not you have this condition.

When Is Schirmer Test Required?

It’s important to know when this particular test is needed. Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

High Light Sensitivity

This should be constant. If your eyes need to adjust to a light switched on in a dark room that’s normal. On the other hand, if your eyes are constantly sensitive to any light it could be a warning sign you have dry eye or other conditions.

Dry eyes

If you have dry eyes you might have a “dry eye.” It’s important to contact your doctor immediately. The physician can then determine whether or not you have this condition, and if so what steps to take next.

Watery Eyes

This might seem ironic in terms of dry eyes. There can be different causes including your eyes only releasing moisture when the ducts are full instead of regularly.

Contact Lens Problems

If you have problems with your contact lenses this could be a problem related to dry eyes. Since these lenses actually contact the eyes, they can sometimes cause various problems. The problems could be with your eyes, lenses, or both. A doctor can help sort things out.

Night Vision

This is especially important when operating a vehicle. Different conditions could be causing problems seeing at nighttime. It’s critical to get it checked out since it’s already tougher to see vehicles and other objects during night driving.

Red/Tired Eyes

This is often caused by factors like not getting enough sleep, allergic reactions, and others. If your eyes look like “road maps” you should definitely contact your doctor.

Itchy/Stinging/Burning Eyes

These symptoms can be caused by several factors including dry air, allergies, etc. If you experience these symptoms often or for a long time you should certainly get it checked out.

If you have these symptoms for one full week contact your doctor immediately.

Benefits of the Schirmer Test


This is the main one since all you’ll need is a piece of filter paper. This isn’t the cheapest paper in the world but is much more affordable than expensive electrical/electronic equipment used for eye tests.

The doctor will also be able to pass on the savings to you. Yes, you’ll still have to pay the doctor for conducting the test. However, the total cost of this exam will be much cheaper than other tests that require fancy equipment, for example.

Last year the US alone spent $3.65 TRILLION on healthcare costs. If you have the dry eye you might have to spend more money on other tests, meds, etc. However, Schirmer’s test, in particular, is affordable so you won’t have to spend big bucks.


As noted, the test only requires you to wait 5 minutes until the doctor checks the filter paper. This is quite fast compared to other tests that can take an hour or more, for example.

You might end up taking other eye tests based on the results of Schimer’s test. However, this one is quick. The doctor can also examine the results immediately and whether or not you probably have a dry eye.


In many cases, your eye doctor can look at the filter paper after the test and determine if you have a dry eye. They can also often figure out the cause of the dry eye based on the amount of moisture your eye released during the test.

However, sometimes more tests are needed. While Schirmer’s test is basic it can help your doctor determine whether or not other tests are required. Such tests can help determine the exact cause of your dry eye.

There’s also a chance you don’t even have a dry eye. If that’s the case no other tests are required after the Schirmer test.

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