Doctors can use amniotic membranes as tissue transplants with healing properties. They may help treat dry eye by repairing the surface of the eye.
Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough tears to lubricate it. People may experience blurred vision, discomfort, and sensitivity to light.
Doctors may use an amniotic membrane graft involving transplanted tissue to heal the eye’s surface in dry eye.
This article discusses how amniotic membranes may help heal dry eye and other eye conditions.
The amniotic membrane is the innermost part of the placenta, which is in contact with a fetus. Doctors collect amniotic membranes from placental tissue after birth.
The amniotic membrane
There are two types of amniotic membranes: dehydrated or cryopreserved. They require different storage methods but have similar outcomes for treating eye conditions.
Dehydrated amniotic membranes are suitable for storing at room temperature, making them easier to preserve and transport than the cryopreserved type. Before use, a healthcare professional will rehydrate the membrane using a small drop of salt solution.
However, cryopreserved amniotic membranes attach to carrier paper, making them easier to cut them out to the specific size people require. They also do not need rehydrating.
Amniotic membranes have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which may help treat dry eye. They also reduce the formation of new blood vessels and tissue scarring.
Amniotic membranes consist of three layers:
- basement membrane
These layers each play a role in helping heal the eye. The basement membrane contains collagen and has a similar makeup to the cornea and conjunctiva, so it can encourage cellular growth. The stroma contains hyaluronic acid and cytokines, which help reduce inflammation.
Amniotic membranes may also help with other eye conditions,
- corneal ulcers
- corneal perforations
- bullous keratopathy — an eye condition in which a blister-like swelling develops on the cornea
- glaucoma surgery
- neurotrophic keratitis— a degenerative condition affecting the cornea
- chemical injury
- pterygium — a raised, wedge-shaped growth in the eye
- ocular thermal burn injury
People may have an amniotic membrane graft as an in-office procedure. The amniotic membrane sits in a flexible ring. A doctor will then place the amniotic membrane under the upper and lower eyelids,
A doctor may use specialized glue or absorbable or nonabsorbable sutures to anchor the amniotic membrane to the eye’s surface.
According to eye care clinics, the affected eye may need to remain shut with gauze or surgical tape for a few days following the amniotic membrane transplant. This allows the eye to absorb the amniotic membrane and begin to repair the eye. Once the eye has absorbed the membrane, a doctor will remove the ring securing it.
- Loss of amniotic membrane: This may occur if a doctor does not secure it correctly.
- Keratitis: Contamination of the amniotic membrane may cause keratitis, which involves inflammation of the cornea.
- Infection: In rare cases, an amniotic membrane transplant may transmit an infection that may occur during delivery of the placenta. However, doctors treat amniotic membranes with antibiotics and screen the tissue for any transmissible diseases when retrieving it from the placenta, so the risk of infection is extremely low.
Amniotic membranes may be an effective treatment option for dry eye, with minimal side effects or complications. They may also help treat other eye conditions, such as corneal disorders.
Researchers are also looking into using amniotic membranes in eye-drop form as a treatment for eye conditions.
Both dehydrated and cryopreserved amniotic membranes have similar outcomes.
Amniotic membranes come from placental tissue and contain different types of stem cells and growth factors, which can help repair eye damage. These membranes have anti-inflammatory and anti-scarring properties and may help treat dry eye.
An amniotic membrane graft may be a treatment option for people with severe or persistent dry eye or other eye disorders. Individuals can discuss treatment options for dry eye with a healthcare professional and whether an amniotic membrane graft is suitable for them.