A study of the effects of orally administered female hormones on the volume and composition of lacrimal fluid related to the toleration of corneal contact lenses

  • Helen P. Farrall

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study was designed to evaluate the effects of certain orally active contraceptive steroids on the eye, related to the tolerance of a corneal contact lens. An oestrogen, ethinyloestradiol BP. 0.05 mg, a progestogen, norethisterone acetate BP. 2.50 mg and a control tablet (vitamin C, 50 mg) were utilised. The effect of these preparations on corneal curvature, lacrimal fluid volume and protein composition and directly on corneal lens tolerance was monitored in a group of 23 volunteer patients. The progestogen was found to produce a significant (P≥ 0.05) decrease in tear volume as measured by a 3 minute Schirmer test. A smaller volume reduction was observed with ethinyloestradiol.
A normal cornea appears unaffected, within the measurement limits available, by the use of either hormone. However, in the presence of a corneal lens, oestrogen was found to induce substantial corneal steepening, indicative of tissue oedema, during the initial 2-3 weeks of medication. Progestogen occasionally produced a similar effect, which could recur with either hormone shortly after the end of the treatment period.
A new method of acrylamide gel electrophoresis was developed for examination of the protein concentration and composition of lacrimal fluid. This allowed much greater resolution of microquantities of unconcentrated fluid than anything previously reported.
Quantitation by densitometry has permitted the recording of medication and lens-induced changes in the protein pattern.
Tear albumin has been shown to differ from serum albumin and to consist of up to 3 subfractions, 7 further protein fractions may also be resolved. The concentration and probable origin of these proteins have been established and the overall effects of hormone administration described. Individual idiosyncratic responses are also discussed.
The study has established tbenature of some effects of contraceptive steroids on the anterior eye, and the probable reasons for resultant corneal lens intolerance.
Date of AwardJan 1974
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorA.G. Sabell (Supervisor)


  • orally administered
  • female hormones
  • lacrimal fluid related
  • toleration
  • corneal contact lenses

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