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.

Amniotic Membranes for Dry Eye and Corneal Scarring in Olympia

American Family Vision Clinic

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. 

What are Amniotic Membrane Disks?

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.

What are Amniotic Membrane Disks?
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.

How Do Amniotic Membranes Work?

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.

What Conditions Do Amniotic Membranes Treat?

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

  • Dry eye
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Corneal erosion
  • Damage from contact lens overwear
  • Thermal or chemical burns to the eyes
  • Eye infections
  • Epithelial corneal defects
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Keratitis
  • Neurotrophic keratopathy
  • Sjogren's Disease 
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
What are Amniotic Membrane Disks?
How Do Amniotic Membranes Work?

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. 

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.
Amniotic Membranes for Dry Eye and Corneal Scarring
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

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 with Dr. Zurcher you can contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.

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Testimonials


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.


Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.


June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.


Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.


Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.


Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.


Amy Fagerness
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