Dry Eye Clinic

Do your eyes feel tired, achy, itchy or burn?  Do they become red by the end of the day, or do you wake with sticky or painful eyes?  Does your vision fluctuate the longer you read or work on the computer?  Do your eyes tear more than you feel they should?  You may have dry eye syndrome, or “Ocular Surface Disease”.

Dr. Tracy Schroeder Swartz heads our Dry Eye Clinic at Laser Eye Center. Prior to joining our practice, she ran ophthalmological referral centers in Huntsville, AL and Nashville, TN. She served as faculty at the Indiana University School of Optometry, and over saw residency and fellowship training programs. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and is Board Certified by the American Board of Optometry. She specializes in diagnosis and treatment of ocular surface disease and has been trained in advanced treatment techniques. She lectures nationally on the topic and has edited multiple textbooks about anterior segment disease, corneal and lens surgery, and surgical vision correction. She was the first to perform IPL for dry eye in Huntsville, AL.

Surface Disease, commonly known as dry eye, may become painful and vision threatening if not treated.  Tears may help but you may need more than just tears to keep your eyes healthy.

migraines and eyes

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is a condition that causes dry, irritated, red eyes. Dry eye syndrome is more complicated then you may think, however. It is caused by an imbalance in the tear film by any number of reasons.  Factors such as genetics, gender, hormone imbalance, work conditions, environmental conditions and overall health can affect your chances of developing dry eye syndrome.

  • Dry eye can present many symptoms, the most common being:
  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Excessively watery eyes
  • The feeling of something being in your eye (foreign body sensation)
  • Grittiness
  • Burning or stinging

Evaporative Dry Eye and the Tear Film

Evaporative dry eye makes up the majority of cases of dry eye syndrome. To understand this condition, you must understand how the tear film works.
The tear film is responsible for nourishing and lubricating your eye. It is made up of three components. If one of these components is lacking, the tear film cannot do its job correctly.

  • The three layers of the tear film are:
  • Oil layer: the outermost layer, the oil layer helps keep the other two tear components from evaporating too quickly. This oil is produced in the meibomian glands, which line the margins of the eyelids.
  • Aqueous layer: this layer is responsible for providing nourishment to the eye and spreading the tears evenly across the eye.
  • Mucous layer: the mucous layer is the innermost layer of the tear film. It helps the tear film stick to the eye and coats the cornea.

When someone has evaporative dry eye syndrome, it means that there is a blockage in the meibomian glands in the eyelid margin. This means that less oil coats the eye, and leads to the tears evaporating too quickly. This condition is also called meibomian gland disorder (MGD).

Dry Eye versus Ocular Surface Disease

Many times people try artificial tears without improvement in their symptoms and wonder why.  It may not be dry eye.  It could be ocular allergies, corneal disease, lid disease, conjunctival chalasis, thyroid eye disease, floppy eyelid syndrome and other conditions that won’t get better with tear use. 

We use state of the art diagnostics to determine what the issue is, and target your treatment based on our testing.  We use Inflammadry testing to look for inflammatory markers, and iTrace combination aberrometry and corneal mapping.  We also use the HD Analyzer to photograph your meibomian glands, and assess the tear film.  We use special dyes to look at the health of your eye.

Dry Eye Treatments

The treatment you receive for your dry eye syndrome greatly depends on your symptoms and what is causing your symptoms.  Mild dry eye symptoms can be managed using lubricating eye drops. These can be found at any drugstore. Frequent use of eye drops is beneficial to prevent corneal scarring or damage over time.  If these do not work to manage everyday dryness, your doctor may prescribe various medications.

If you have evaporative dry eye, your treatments will be aimed at addressing the meibomian glands to make them function better.  People with chronic dry eye symptoms who are not producing enough oil to cover the cornea may benefit from a supplement regimen. Omega-3 supplements have shown promising results for those with chronic dry eye. They can help your eyes produce their own oil over time.

Treatments offered include:

If you have dry eye syndrome and are looking for a solution, contact The Laser Eye Center today.   Call us or contact us online to schedule your dry eye consultation today!