Plenty of dry eyes: Ophthalmologist helps introduce innovative tool to better diagnosis common condition


Dry eye has been a growing concern in the eye care industry.

Dr. John Abrams, an ophthalmologist, said patients experiencing dry eyes are like complaints of back pain to a general doctor.

“There’s lots of causes of back pain. There are no great diagnostics for it,” said Abrams, whose main Abrams EyeCare Center is in Carmel. “You kind of take a stab at what might help them, and then it doesn’t work, and they try something else. Well, dry eyes have been like that for us for a long time. We’ve not had really good diagnostics at all for it.”

Abrams said approximately 40 percent of his patients have symptoms of dry eye, and he believes much of it is caused by environmental factors, medications, an aging population and hormonal changes in women, or LASIK procedures.

Abrams, a former Carmel resident who now lives in Westfield, helped co-found a company in Israel that  developed the Tear Film Imager, a diagnostic tool, which is now being used in his Carmel office. The tear film covers the ocular surface and helps protect and lubricate eyes.

“So, we’ve developed this camera that takes a picture of the tear film, and it does it down to such small amounts down to a nanometer, which is a very, very small amount,” Abrams said. “We can actually image the layers of the tear film, and nobody’s been able to do that before. So, the thought process of this camera and this technology is that it will help with the diagnosis. But that’s not really what I think the main importance of it is. It might allow us to see what layer of the tear film has the problem and direct treatment to that problem, so we would have more specific treatment. We can monitor our treatment and see if the tear film has improved or the area we were addressing has improved.”

Abrams said the FDA-registered device is not ready for use in any office, because it’s too costly and is built by hand and not fully automated. Abrams said product designers are working on automation now.

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Dr. John Abrams co-founded a company in Israel that produced the Tear Film Imager, which gives eye doctors a closer look at what causes dry eyes. (Photo by Adam Seif)

“I have the only one in private practice anywhere in the world,” he said. “Most of them are in university ophthalmology departments for research purposes.”

Abrams said a lot of drug companies have purchased them because they want to show how their new dry eye drugs or therapies work.

Abrams said his office has just started using it. It can’t be submitted to insurance yet because it’s too new.

“We’re probably going to do it for next to nothing to get it out there,” he said. “It could revolutionize how dry eyes are treated and how people are cared for going forward.”

Kylene Polhamus, an Abrams EyeCare optometrist, said she is already using the Tear Film Imager with patients.

“It is very interesting to see how my patients’ symptoms correlate with what reports we get from the TFI,” she said. “Then (it helps) direct our treatment and monitor and manage how they’re responding to the treatments. It’s really quite user friendly. It’s not not difficult to use. It’s quick, non-invasive.”

Polhamus said dry eye is generally a multifactorial eye disease. Symptoms include vision fluctuations, dryness, burning, itching and watery discharge.

“Being on computers and our phones, we are not blinking as much as we used to,” she said.

Abrams said he added Polhamus to the practice about six months ago because of her experience with dry eye treatment. Polhamus, who had been working in the northern part of Indiana, was moving to the area and looking for work

“Dry eye has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” the Fishers resident said.

Abrams’ late father JJ. Abrams was an optometrist. His father eventually worked in Abrams’ office on the west side of Indianapolis, retiring at age 92 after practicing for 70 years.

Abrams, 65, recently opened a practice on the east side to provide care for the underserved Latino community.

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John Abrams as a ball boy for the Indiana Pacers. (Photo courtesy of John Abrams)

An eye on sports

Dr. John Abrams got his start in sports as a ball boy for the Indiana Pacers in the last year of ABA.

Abrams has been the eye doctor for the Pacers for 36 years, with the Indiana Fever since the team started in 2000, and with Butler University and Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 35 years.

“We just took on Indy Fuel and Indy Eleven,” Abrams said. “I do it for fun. For the teams, I usually do a screening in the beginning of the season and make sure they have no contacts issues or need contacts. I take care of injuries. During the Pacers games, I take care of the visiting team, the officials and our team. I don’t do it to make a living, but I do it because I love basketball.”

Abrams and his partner, Scott Tarter, started the Dropping Dimes Foundation to help former ABA players who need assistance.