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Conditions & Treatments

Amniotic Membranes for Dry Eye

Dry eye disease is a multifactorial disease affecting an estimated 16 million Americans. Initial treatments for dry eye often consist of over-the-counter artificial tear drops and anti-inflammatory eye drops, such as corticosteroids, cyclosporine, and lifitegrast. Additionally, for those lacking sufficient tear production, blocking the tear ducts (punctal occlusion) can help, while warm compresses and eyelid cleaning are recommended for individuals suffering from meibomian gland dysfunction, which affects oil secretion in the tears.

Despite these options, people with moderate to severe dry eye conditions might find that these standard approaches do not adequately relieve their symptoms and signs, leading to the consideration of alternative treatment methods.

Amniotic membranes are a biologic therapy derived from the placenta, used in various medical fields for their healing properties. The membranes are harvested in a sterile environment during elective cesarean sections. Donors are screened for transmissible diseases, and the tissues are treated with antibiotics.

In the context of dry eye disease, amniotic membranes are a treatment approach aimed at accelerating ocular surface healing, reducing inflammation, and providing symptomatic relief for patients suffering from moderate to severe dry eye disease. The amniotic membranes have been used for a range of corneal conditions since 1940.

How do amniotic tissues work?

The amniotic membrane tissue is implanted over the cornea and acts like a bandage to protect it while the corneal surface heals.  When used in patients with moderate to severe dry eye studies have shown that it significantly improves ocular surface health and symptoms for up to six months.

Why does amniotic membrane treatment work?

  • It reduces ocular surface inflammation: Amniotic membranes contain natural substances called cytokines and growth factors that help reduce inflammation on the eye’s surface. Inflammation is a big part of what causes dry eye.
  • It promotes healing of the cornea: They encourage the eye’s surface to heal, restoring ocular surface integrity, making it healthier and more comfortable.
  • It prevents scarring: They can help avoid scarring on the eye due to dry eye, which is important for keeping clear vision.
  • It is antibacterial: They offer protection against infections by creating a physical barrier against germs.
  • It provides lubrication: By covering the ocular surface, amniotic tissues act like a natural bandage, reducing pain caused by friction of the eyelids over the ocular surface, providing relief from dryness and irritation.

How are amniotic membranes applied?

Amniotic membranes can be applied in various forms, such as patches, grafts, or inserts, depending on the severity and specific needs of the dry eye condition. The application is designed for in-office placement, where the membrane is directly applied to the ocular surface.

When are amniotic membranes treatment indicated?

Amniotic membrane transplantation for dry eye disease is particularly indicated for moderate to severe cases, especially those unresponsive to conventional treatments such as artificial tears, anti-inflammatory drops, or punctal plugs. It is also beneficial for patients with underlying conditions that affect the ocular surface, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, ocular cicatricial pemphigoid, or severe ocular allergies.

Clinical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of amniotic membranes in reducing symptoms and signs of dry eye disease, improving tear film stability, and enhancing the quality of life for patients. However, the treatment’s success and the duration of its effects can vary among individuals, and in some cases, repeated applications may be necessary.

What are the risks?

Amniotic membrane treatment is a noninvasive procedure. The membranes dissolve a week after applied. There will be some blurred vision while the membranes are on the corneas. Your Union Square Eye Care doctor will review all the benefits and risks with you at your appointment, and how to take care of your eyes after the procedure.

In-office availability of amniotic membranes allows our eye doctors to treat a variety of ocular surface conditions rapidly and effectively. Union Square Eye Care is pleased to offer this state-of-the-art treatment at our offices in Union Square and Harlem. Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about how amniotic tissues can help you or a loved one.

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