Mackenzie Sward, Clayton Kirkc, Sunita Kumar, Nabila Nasir, William Adams, Charles Bouchard

Lax eyelid syndrome (LES), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and ocular surface inflammation

publication date
September 2018
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Lax eyelid syndrome (LES) is defined as the association of distensible “floppy” eyelids and chronic papillary conjunctivitis. LES is also found in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who have systemic elevation of inflammatory markers, including matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). Locally elevated MMP levels have also been demonstrated co-localized with elastin loss in eyelids of patients with LES, accounting for their “floppiness.” The purpose of this study was to investigate tear film MMP levels and determine their association with eyelid laxity and OSA. We also evaluated 3 previous grading systems to determine the severity of lid laxity and introduced a new “laxometer” device.


Thirty-seven subjects underwent bilateral eyelid laxity assessments prior to polysomnography testing. OSA severity was graded using the apnea hypopnea index (AHI). The degree of eyelid laxity was determined using three published methods and a newly proposed “laxometer” method. Commercially available InflammaDry® kits were used to determine the presence of MMP-9 in the tear film.



There was a significant elevation in tear MMP-9 levels in patients with LES compared to controls (p < .05). Of the 37 total patients enrolled in this study, 2 patients (5.4%)

did not have sleep study results. Thirty-two of the remaining 35 patients (91.4%) were determined to have OSA (AHI > 5). In this sample, there was no meaningful association between OSA and MMP-9 (p = .12). Although there were positive associations between OSA severity, laxometer measurements, and previously established grading methods, none achieved statistical significance (all p > .05).


There was an elevation of MMP-9 in tears of patients with LES. Elevated tear MMP-9 was also not associated with OSA. Although there is some evidence to support the association of eyelid laxity and OSA, the most accurate and reliable method for grading eyelid laxity remains unclear.

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