Amniotic membranes are newly engineered treatment options for difficult cases of dry eye disease. These membranes are ethically obtained stem cell tissues that provide the front surface of the eye with healing and regenerative properties. They have proven to be useful treatment methods for difficult or severe cases of dry eye syndrome, and can be used in other corneal conditions in which significant damage to the front surface of the eye has occurred. Amniotic membranes are placed directly on the front of the eye, and provide not only a nourishing and protective barrier to help facilitate corneal health, but can also provide rejuvenating stem cell contributions to the cornea and prevent future corneal damage due to dryness.
How Do Amniotic Membranes Work?
Amniotic membranes are tissue rich in stem cells that function as a short-term corneal graft. It is applied in-office by an eye doctor, and is a quick and simple procedure. The membrane is secured in a flexible round ring, which is inserted underneath the upper and lower eyelids so that the membrane is completely covering the front of the eye. The eyelids are usually secured shut for several days with surgical tape or gauze to keep the membrane safeguarded. Over the matter of a few days, the amniotic membrane is slowly absorbed by the corneal tissue, and the regenerative stem cells begin to repair the damage ocular surface. The membrane is completely absorbed or dissolved within 7-10 days, and the plastic ring is removed from its position beneath the eyelids. Throughout the absorption process, the eye doctor may request to evaluate the membrane a few times to ensure it is properly placed, and will likely want to evaluate the corneal health regularly in the weeks or months following the membrane application. After the amniotic membrane has been applied and dissolved, the therapeutic benefits will last for an extended time. The stem cells from the membrane work long after the application process and provide a sustainable treatment for ocular surface damage.
The in-office procedure of applying an amniotic membrane is pain-free and only takes a matter of minutes. It requires a numbing drop to insert the flexible ring under the eyelids, but after insertion there is little to no discomfort, only slight awareness. It is a safe treatment option with limited to no lasting side effects.
Beyond Dry Eye Disease
Some forms of dry eye disease are unresponsive to classical treatment options, such as artificial tears, lubricating ointments, prescription dry eye drops, thorough lid hygiene or even steroid eye drops. In these difficult cases, amniotic membranes may be an effective treatment option. Amniotic membranes can also be used for many ocular surface diseases beyond dry eye syndrome. For those suffering from systemic conditions, such as Sjogren’s Disease or Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which can result in extremely painful corneal damage, amniotic membranes can be a treatment option. The ability for the stem cells of the membrane tissue to provide long-lasting healing properties make amniotic membranes unlike any other treatment option for ocular surface disease.