Dr. Scott Hyatt OD A-B-See Vision Care
I recently met with a patient who had experienced a sudden onset of Bell’s palsy, a type a paralysis that affects half of the face. She could no longer move the left half of her mouth and she couldn’t close her left eyelid. She was premature at birth which caused her right eye to be blind, so her left eye was even more precious than normal. We were trying to manage her eyecare with various treatments, but she still had considerable damage and inflammation from constant exposure. Her vision decreased and she wasn’t able to enjoy her hobbies, read, or drive. After placing an amniotic membrane over her eye, the damage slowly began to heal. The inflammation subsided and her vision eventually returned to normal.
Amniotic membranes have introduced an effective, natural treatment option for many ocular surface diseases. The amniotic tissue is obtained from a placenta donated by consenting mothers of planned cesarean sections and has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. The tissue is spread across a plastic ring which is then placed on the eye like a large contact lens. They are useful in treating many corneal (front surface of the eye) diseases including; dry eye, exposure keratopathy, chemical burns, sterile ulcers, and many others.
One of the surprising eye diseases on the list is dry eye. Many people think that dry eyes are a normal part of life, and are surprised to hear of the many options that can help reduce both signs and symptoms of this common condition. Dry eye is primarily an inflammatory disease which, if left untreated, can continue to spiral downward. If the tear film is inadequate in protecting the eye, the eyelid will rub against the eye resulting in friction (think of windshield wipers on a dry windshield).
This friction can cause small spots of damage and inflammation along the cornea. An eye that is inflamed and irritated creates a poor environment for the tear film and inflammation continues to increase. It is important to take steps to intervene and address the primary cause: inflammation.
There are 2 types of amniotic membranes. The first type is sutured onto the eye and the membrane becomes integrated into the eye as the outermost layer of cells grows over the membrane. The second is when the membrane is placed on the front surface of the eye like a bandage contact lens, which is the more common option. Many of the above diseases cause significant inflammation and the eye cannot heal properly. Utilizing the amniotic membrane quickly reduces the inflammation and maintain a healing environment for the eye to restore itself back to a healthy state.
Patients generally tolerate amniotic membranes well, but there are downsides and side effects that can occur during treatment. The membrane is an opaque material, so blurry vision is present during use. Discomfort is also common, and some patients prefer to wear a patch or tape the eyelid down so the eyelid doesn’t rub along the ring that holds the membrane in place. Amniotic membranes are generally left on the eye for five to ten days, depending on the severity of the condition.
This sight-saving option has revolutionized the treatment of many ocular surface diseases during a scheduled local office visit, quickly producing impressive results.