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Amniotic Membranes for Dry Eye and Corneal Scarring

Amniotic membrane disks are a revolutionary new treatment for severe cases of dry eye and corneal scarring.

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What are Amniotic Membrane Disks?

Sometimes, the typical treatments for dry eye aren’t effective enough for severe cases. Amniotic membrane disks are a new FDA approved treatment which is effective at treating difficult to treat or severe cases of dry eye.

Amniotic membrane disks are specially made lenses with, in the center, amniotic membranes ethically obtained from stem cell tissues. These provide both a nourishing and protective barrier for better corneal health, and rejuvenating stem cell contributions that can help heal and protect the cornea in the future. It has also been shown to stimulate regeneration of damaged nerve terminals, which in some patients is the cause of their neuropathic corneal pain.

How Do Amniotic Membranes Work?

How Do Amniotic Membranes Work?

Amniotic membranes are made of tissue rich in stem cells, and they function as a short-term corneal graft. Effectively, it both protects the vulnerable tissues of the eye while also stimulating its repair through the introduction of beneficial biomolecules directly linked to corneal regeneration.

Amniotic membrane disks are applied in office by a doctor, in a quick and simple procedure. The membrane, secured in a round, flexible ring, is carefully inserted beneath both the upper and lower eyelids so the membrane completely covers the front surface of the eye. The process is quick, only taking a few minutes, and with the aid of a numbing drop, involves minimal discomfort.

Following their insertion, the eyelids are generally kept shut, either with surgical tape or gauze, to protect the amniotic membrane. Over the next several days, the membrane is absorbed into the corneal tissue, and the regenerative stem cells it contained start to repair the damaged ocular surface.

Once the membrane is completely absorbed or dissolved (within 7-10 days), the plastic ring is removed from where it was placed beneath the eyelids

During this process, the doctor may check the membrane several times to make sure it is in the proper spot, and evaluate the overall cornea health on a regular basis over the weeks or months following the application. The therapeutic effects of this treatment lasts for an extended period of time, providing sustainable treatment for damaged ocular surfaces.

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What Conditions Do Amniotic Membranes Treat?

What Conditions Do Amniotic Membranes Treat?

In addition to preventing additional damage to the cornea, amniotic membranes help treat several eye conditions, including:

Amniotic Membrane Disks Compared to Other Treatment Methods for Dry Eye

More common treatments for dry eye, such as eye drops, are less effective in severe cases, and are not able to treat the surface of the eye. Amniotic membrane disks, with their regenerative properties, are capable of healing a damaged cornea in addition to treating dry eye, decreasing discomfort, and improving vision.

One study, the Dry Eye Amniotic Membrane (DREAM) study, found this treatment to be extremely effective on patients for whom other treatment options had not been able to help, within less than a week of starting it. 

How Do Amniotic Membranes Work?
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Common Questions

The cost of amniotic membranes is high, however in many cases the cost is covered by your medical insurance. In addition the therapeutic effects after treatment may not be permanent and may be dependent on the type of condition being treated. Amniotic membranes are not simple to produce as they come from the innermost layer of fetal membranes—composed of the epithelium, basement membrane and stroma—collected from full-term placental tissue. This tissue is extremely difficult to produce but has been shown to be extremely effective for those suffering from corneal conditions by promoting cellular growth and reducing inflammation. Your medical insurance including medicare generally covers the cost of amniotic membranes when deemed medically necessary, however it is always best to discuss your specific case with our eye doctor to determine if your insurance will cover the procedure.
The goal of amniotic membranes is to enable our eyes to heal naturally after a condition that has caused trauma, inflammation, or scarring on the cornea. In some cases the treatment may not be permanent. During a large study done on the impact of amniotic membranes the following conditions had a 100% success rate: corneal ulcers neurotrophic keratitis; post-keratoplasty, glaucoma or cataract; bullous keratopathy; corneal degeneration; dystrophy; mechanical trauma; reconstruction of the anophthalmic cavity; eyelid reconstruction; and dysfunctional tear syndrome. Amniotic membrane treatment had varying success when analyzed after a 1 year period for the following conditions: mucous membrane pemphigoid, Stevens-Johnson or Lyell’s syndrome, reconstruction of the conjunctiva and fornix, neoplasia of the ocular surface, primary and secondary limbal stem cell deficiency, physical trauma, chemical trauma, pterygium, and recurrent epithelial erosions. As with any advanced treatment it is always recommended to speak with our eye doctors about your particular condition before considering the treatment.
The success rate of an amniotic membrane graft is high, with many patients experiencing significant improvement in their ocular health. The exact rate can vary depending on the severity and type of the condition being treated.
While amniotic membrane treatment is generally well-tolerated, potential complications can include minor discomfort during the procedure, temporary blurred vision, or a foreign body sensation. However, these side effects are usually transient and resolve as the eye heals.
Typically, the amniotic membrane is absorbed into the corneal tissue within 7-10 days following insertion. During this period, the beneficial stem cells within the membrane start to repair the damaged ocular surface. The exact timeline may vary based on individual healing rates.
Amniotic membranes come with several advantages, including their rich content of growth factors and proteins that promote healing and reduce inflammation. They also provide a protective barrier for the cornea, help to alleviate dry eye symptoms, and can stimulate the regeneration of damaged nerve terminals, potentially relieving neuropathic corneal pain.
Amniotic membranes provide a protective and nourishing barrier for the eye, aiding in the treatment of severe dry eye disease. They contain growth factors and anti-inflammatory proteins that help repair the damaged ocular surface and stimulate the production of healthy tear film, alleviating dry eye symptoms.
Amniotic Membranes for Dry Eye and Corneal Scarring
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Summary

Amniotic membrane treatment is a new, effective method for treating severe cases of dry eye where there is damage to the surface of the eye thanks to its regenerative properties.  If you have additional questions about amniotic membranes, or wish to schedule an appointment you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.

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