Optometrist Expands Role With Practice

Dry eye and contacts specialist appreciates life-work balance of her profession

Since childhood, Diane Kerris, OD, has had a passion for health care. And with several health professionals in her family tree, it seemed natural that she also would pursue a career in the field.

“I’ve known since I was a little girl when I played doctor with my stuffed animals that I wanted to be a doctor,” Dr. Kerris shares. “Both my mother and aunt were nurses, and my father was in the health care sector when he was in the Air Force.”

diane kerris brandon eye associates BRA23A

Dr. Kerris provides routine and primary eye care at the practice’s Brandon and Sun City Center locations.

A board-certified optometrist, Dr. Kerris has expanded her role at Brandon Eye Associates and began serving patients full time in January. She provides routine and primary eye care at the Brandon and Sun City Center locations.

“Going through school, I learned the eye can do many things and tell us a lot about the health of our bodies, so I developed a great interest in the eye,” she shares. “Being nearsighted, I’ve had to wear glasses from an early age. It was a natural fit for me to enter an eye specialty of medicine.

“I chose to become an optometrist because I also wanted to have children and a family. I didn’t want to worry about emergencies and late-night ophthalmic surgeries. Optometry was a great profession for me and allows for the lifestyle I want to live. It encompasses my love of medicine, my intrigue with the eye and my desire to be a hands-on mom.”

Dr. Kerris earned her Doctor of Optometry degree from Salus University (formerly Pennsylvania College of Optometry) and has been practicing in the Tampa Bay area for more than 25 years, including 14 years in private practice.

Common conditions

In addition to providing routine and primary eye care at Brandon Eye Associates, Dr. Kerris fits specialty contact lenses, such as scleral lenses.

A scleral lens is a large diameter contact lens that rests on the sclera, the white part of the eye, and creates a tear-filled vault over the cornea, the transparent front portion of the eye. Scleral lenses are often used to treat a corneal condition called keratoconus.

With keratoconus, the normally round cornea becomes thin and gradually bulges outward like a cone. It causes blurry or distorted vision, and eye redness or swelling.

The routine care provided by Dr. Kerris includes eye exams and vision tests as well as prescribing and fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses. As a primary care provider, she detects, diagnoses and treats various eye diseases and disorders.

“The most common conditions I see are cataracts and glaucoma,” Dr. Kerris reports. “I also perform many diabetic eye exams, looking for signs of diabetic retinopathy. I check the overall health of the retina, blood vessels and optic nerve. Sometimes, I see disease in the back of the eye, such as macular degeneration.”

Cataracts are the clouding of the lens, usually caused by a buildup of proteins and fibers. Glaucoma entails a group of disorders that damage the optic nerve and is often associated with increased pressure in the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the retina caused by high blood glucose (sugar) levels. Macular degeneration is the breakdown of the center portion of the retina that is responsible for clear, straight-ahead vision.

“I can provide some treatment for these disorders,” Dr. Kerris states. “But if patients need specialty treatment or surgery, I refer them to one of the ophthalmologists at the practice that specialize in that particular condition. That’s what’s nice about Brandon Eye Associates, we have the appropriate specialists right here in the practice.”

Dry eye disease

One of Dr. Kerris’ specialties is the treatment and management dry eye disease.

“I’ve attended Dry Eye University, which is an intensive, two-day educational seminar on the causes and treatments of dry eye,” the doctor shares. “I also complete numerous hours of continuing education on dry eye to keep up with the latest procedures and treatment options.”

Dry eye disease is very common, affecting nearly 16 million people in the United States, according to the National Eye Institute. It occurs when the eyes do not produce sufficient tears to stay lubricated or when tears evaporate off the eye surface too quickly.

In most cases of dry eye, the eye’s tear film is unstable because the oil and water layers are out of balance. This is typically due to dysfunction of the meibomian glands in the eyelids that produce the oils in the tear film. The glands can become blocked by hardened oil and debris. As a result, they cannot release oil efficiently, so the tear film becomes unstable. The tears evaporate off the surface of the eyes, causing dryness.

Symptoms of dry eye include a stinging, burning or scratching sensation in the eyes; eye redness; a sensation of having something in the eyes; light sensitivity; difficulty wearing contact lenses; blurred vision; and increased tearing, which is the eye’s response to irritation. Left untreated, dry eye can lead to damage to the ocular surface.

“Dry eye has multiple causes,” Dr. Kerris asserts. “It can develop from normal aging. Extensive screen use, as with an iPad or computer, is responsible for many of the dry eye issues. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and thyroid disease, can cause dry eye. Some medications can lead to dry eye as well.”

Dr. Kerris notes there are many treatment options, depending on the severity of the symptoms. There are over-the-counter and prescription eyedrops. Also, Brandon Eye Associates offers several in-office procedures that can help with symptoms.

“We have a procedure called BlephEx®, which is essentially a microexfoliation of the eyelid margin,” Dr. Kerris describes. “Just like we can get plaque on our teeth, we can get a biofilm buildup on our eyelid margin that can cause the tear film to become unstable, causing dry eye symptoms. We can remove that biofilm with the BlephEx.

“Another procedure is the MiBoFlo, which heats up the meibomian glands and helps express the stagnant oil blocking them. After the treatment, the oil can flow more efficiently, and the tear film becomes more stable. The result is a decrease in dry eye symptoms.”

Another therapy at Brandon Eye Associates is intense pulsed light, or IPL. The pulses of light heat up the oil clogging the meibomian glands and restore efficient flow.

“IPL can also help decrease the inflammation around the eyelid area that can lead to dry eye,” Dr. Kerris points out. “Another procedure I can perform is the insertion of small plugs into the drainage channel of the eye, which keeps more tears on the eyes. These are called punctal plugs.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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    • Brandon Eye Associates, PA

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    • Diane Kerris, OD

      Diane Kerris, OD, has been practicing optometry in the Tampa Bay area for more than two decades. She earned her undergraduate degree from Gannon University in Erie, PA, and her Doctor of Optometry degree from Salus University (formerly the Pen... Read More