Doctors frequently hand out a written questionnaire, such as SPEED, to screen for possible symptoms of dry eye before performing other physical tests.

Dry eye disease affects millions of Americans and is often difficult to correctly diagnose. The SPEED questionnaire is one diagnostic tool that can detect and track the symptoms of dry eye disease.

“SPEED” stands for “Standard Patient Evaluation of Eye Dryness.” This questionnaire was developed to help medical professionals quickly evaluate and record the progression of symptoms.

The SPEED questionnaire has just eight questions. You rate the frequency and severity of your symptoms on a numeric scale. Then, your doctor adds up the values to get a total score of 0–28. You can repeat the test to assess changes in symptoms over time.

Read on to learn more about how accurate the SPEED questionnaire is, when you might need to take it, and how it compares with other available tools.

The SPEED questionnaire asks you to rate the following symptoms:

  • dryness
  • grittiness
  • scratchiness
  • irritation
  • burning
  • watering
  • soreness
  • eye fatigue

The questionnaire is divided into the following four sections:

  • the presence of symptoms and when they occur
  • the frequency of four symptoms, using a scale of 0–3: never (0), sometimes (1), often (2), or constant (3)
  • the severity of four symptoms, using a scale of 0–4: no problems (0), tolerable (1), uncomfortable (2), bothersome (3), or intolerable (4)
  • whether you use lubricating eye drops and, if so, how often

Health professionals will calculate the frequency and severity scores from the second and third sections. Scores can range from 0–28. Generally, doctors will use the following scale to assess the results of a SPEED questionnaire:

  • 0–4: mild
  • 5–7: moderate
  • 8+: severe

The SPEED score does not provide a diagnosis on its own. Rather, it can help doctors decide whether other tests are necessary and provide another tool to monitor your symptoms.

About 20 million people in the United States have dry eye disease. Because the condition is so common and the symptoms are often difficult to spot, some doctors choose to survey all their patients.

Eye care professionals may provide a SPEED questionnaire to anyone they wish to screen for potential symptoms of dry eye.

Research has shown that the SPEED survey can be a helpful tool for screening people who may have dry eye disease.

According to a 2018 study, SPEED is a valid instrument for measuring symptoms of dry eye. The authors concluded that the questionnaire was repeatable and the results correlated to findings of other objective diagnostic tests.

Another 2018 study found that the SPEED questionnaire was not as accurate at detecting signs of dry eye as other surveys were. However, some of the differences in outcomes were relatively modest.

Other research has suggested that SPEED can be translated and adapted into different languages to measure symptoms of dry eye.

You might want to consult a doctor if you have persistent symptoms of dry eye, which include:

  • stinging, burning, redness, or irritation in your eyes
  • blurred vision, particularly when reading
  • a scratchy or gritty feeling in your eyes
  • strings of mucus in or around your eyes
  • pain when wearing contact lenses
  • watery eyes

The Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) is another questionnaire that eye care professionals commonly use to evaluate dry eye symptoms. While both OSDI and SPEED aim to assess the frequency of dry eye symptoms using a self-reported grading scale, there are some differences between the two questionnaires, including the following:

  • SPEED has eight questions, while OSDI has 12 questions.
  • The questionnaires address different symptoms. SPEED looks at eye soreness, grittiness, scratchiness, pain, irritation, burning, watering, and fatigue, while OSDI focuses on light sensitivity, eye pain, grittiness or soreness, and blurred or poor vision.
  • The SPEED scale ranges from 0–28, while the OSDI scale runs from 0–100.
  • SPEED includes questions about the severity of symptoms, while OSDI does not.
  • SPEED asks about symptoms 3 months prior to answering the questionnaire, while OSDI covers only 1 previous week.
  • OSDI includes questions about environmental triggers, but SPEED does not.

While SPEED and OSDI have some distinct differences, a 2021 study found that the questionnaires are comparable in distinguishing between people who have symptoms and those who don’t.

SPEED is a quick eight-question survey that could help doctors diagnose dry eye disease in some people. It’s a good idea to consult a doctor if you have symptoms of dry eye. Treatments can help relieve the discomfort and improve your quality of life.