Last updated: October 13, 2014
Description: Rose bengal, a vital stain that detects dead or dying cells, is used to evaluate corneal abnormalities in patients with symptomatic or suspected keratoconjunctivitis sicca.
Method: This test is performed by an ophthalmologist. After instillation of a topical anesthetic, the dye is introduced using sterile paper strips, and corneal staining is observed with a slit lamp.
Normal Results: A normal cornea does not take up the stain.
Abnormal Results: A punctate pattern of staining in the interpalpebral area is characteristic of sicca syndrome.
Indications: Patients appropriate for referral include those with symptomatic dry eyes, usually manifested by a foreign body sensation, redness, or pain; the patient may also note decreased tear formation. However, it is also likely that symptoms do not correlate with the ocular findings in some patients. Loss of the normal tear film can result in ocular problems such as infections, and thus, establishing a diagnosis allows institution of appropriate treatment and preventive measures. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca has multiple causes including inflammatory conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome (primary or secondary). Diminished tear secretion also occurs with normal aging.
Cost: $200–350 (cost includes procedure and ophthalmology consultation).