Dry eye occurs when your eyes produce either too few tears or a poor quality of tears. Symptoms may include pain, light sensitivity, a gritty sensation, a feeling like something is in the eye, itching, redness, and blurry vision. Dry eye can cause changes in vision that affect your ability to perform daily tasks such as reading and driving. Factors that may contribute to the development of dry eye include excessive time spent looking at computer and smart phone screens, age, hormones, medication, and certain medical conditions.
The flow of tears is necessary to moisten and lubricate the eye’s surface. When the eye isn't getting enough lubrication, it sends a message to the brain that triggers more lubrication, but sometimes those tears are mostly water and don't coat the eye surface well. Tears are made of water for moisture, oils for lubrication, and mucus that helps the tears spread properly. The normal production of these components creates a three-layer “tear film” that protects the surface, helps prevent infection, and maintains comfort. A poor-quality tear film can cause dry eye.
There are two general types of dry eye: aqueous-deficient (a lack of production of the “watery” component of tears) and evaporative (a lack of production of the oily component of tears). Glands in the eyelids known as meibomian glands produce the oily portion of the tears, therefore any lack of production is termed meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).
Because the condition tends to worsen over time, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of dry eye and MGD can prevent damage that leads to severe discomfort and vision problems later in life. Dry eye can also affect the success of surgical eye procedures, so the condition should be addressed before any type of vision correction procedure is attempted. Although dry eye cannot be cured, it is possible to relieve symptoms with eye drops and ointments, medication, or plugging some of the tear ducts to slow the drainage of tears once they collect on the eye’s surface. Certain new treatments can provide significant relief.
Callahan is the only full-service facility in Alabama specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of the eye and one of only a few worldwide that is entirely devoted to advancements in ophthalmology. That reputation is supported by 16 operating rooms dedicated to eye surgery and a 24/7 eye emergency room that is the region’s only Level I Ocular Trauma Center. More than 11,000 surgeries are performed at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital each year, and we conduct more reconstructive eye procedures than any other facility in the world.
Our facility is home to more than two dozen ophthalmologists, many of whom are named among the top doctors in their fields nationally. Callahan is widely recognized for excellence in patient care, having consistently earned prestigious awards from health care consulting group Press Ganey, and in 2017 Callahan was named as one of the “100 Great Places to Work in Healthcare” by Becker’s Hospital Review.
Callahan also is known for pioneering developments in surgical instruments, devices, and procedures used by ophthalmologists across the globe. As part of the UAB Medicine academic medical center, Callahan is actively involved in ongoing research and clinical trials. Many of our ophthalmologists have received funding from prestigious research organizations and institutions and collaborate in clinical care to bring the latest in scientific discovery to our patients.
Images and Videos
The Red Eye: What Primary Care Physicians Need to Know
See how UAB’s Bioptic Driving Program is paving the road for those who are severely nearsighted to get behind the wheel safely.
Giving Patients Freedom to Drive
To Dustin Jones, the bioptic driving program at UAB provides one very important benefit: freedom. He has a congenital eye disease called optic atrophy which had prevented him from getting a driver’s license at age 16. Jones got his driver’s license at 19 with the aid of a bioptic telescope and the UAB Driving Assessment Clinic in the Department of Ophthalmology.
Improving the detection of glaucoma
Glaucoma is a silent disease. It does not hurt, symptoms are slow to develop, and most people do not notice any loss of vision until it is too late. A project by ophthalmologists at UAB are examining whether a partnership with community-based optometrists will improve detection and treatment of glaucoma, especially for high-risk populations.
UAB Callahan Eye Hospital helped save a young baseball player’s career and, most importantly, his sight.
Baseball Eye Injury
College baseball player Meade Kendrick was nearly blinded by a batted ball during a practice drill. The ball hit directly on Kendrick’s left eye resulting in a severe closed-globe injury to the eye. See how Meade's vision was restored by UAB Ophthalmologist Doug Witherspoon, M.D. at the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital.
After being hit in the eye with a bottle rocket, Dianne Peterson underwent sight-saving surgery at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital.
Fireworks Eye Injury
Dianne Peterson was just a bystander when a firework hit her in the eye on July 4th. The damage to her left eye was severe. Instead of celebrating, she had eye surgery at midnight. See her story of caution.
UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of dry eye. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.View Clinical Trials