Autologous plasma eye drops are a treatment for severe dry eye disease where conservative treatment is failing to work. Typical treatment for dry eye disease will usually start off with using artificial tears several times a day and some patients will require gels and ointments to be used mainly during the night but sometimes also during the day.
Patients with a more severe dry eye disease may need to use prescribed medication such as short-term use of steroids or immunosuppressant medication such as cyclosporine eye drops/ointment. These types of drops work by decreasing inflammation and increasing tear production.
Other Dry Eye Therapies
Along with the above topical treatments, the use of other therapies can be used to help the symptoms for dry eye disease such as punctal plugs; which are inserted into the tear ducts to stop tears from draining away too fast, heated eye masks and eye lid massages; to help unblock the meibomian glands which can contribute to dry eye disease, moisture goggles; which help reduce tear evaporation, and taking oral nutritional supplements.
Autologous plasma eye drops may be indicated if the above treatments fail to control the eye symptoms and the cornea is continuing to be damaged. An ophthalmologist will assess the patient’s suitability for these eye drops before suggesting them.
What Are Autologous Plasma Eye Drops Made From?
Autologous plasma eye drops are made from the patient’s own blood. The patient will attend an appointment and will be assessed by a nurse to make sure they are healthy enough to give blood, if so then around 1 pint of blood is taken, this is done in the same way as giving a blood donation or similar to a blood test, but more is taken.
Once the blood has been taken from the patient it is then made into the eye drops. This process isn’t instant, and the patient will normally need to return a couple of weeks later to collect the drops. Firstly, the blood is tested to make sure it is viable to be manufactured into eye drops. If the tests come back clear the second process can begin.
The blood is left to clot for about 10 hours, once this has happened the blood, which is in a special package, is placed in a centrifuge and spun for around 15 minutes. This causes the red blood cells to separate from the plasma. Once completely separated the plasma is diluted in a sterile saline solution and frozen into daily doses.
One unit of blood can produce enough eye drops to last the patient roughly 3 months, but this can vary patient to patient and depending how much blood was initially taken from the patient. The plasma drops must be kept frozen at all times and only one daily dose is to be defrosted and used per day by the patient.
The autologous plasma eye drops do not contain any additives or preservatives. The eye drops work as they have vitamin A, immunoglobulins, fibronectin, and growth factors which all contribute to promote epithelial health by making the eyes heal faster and increase the eye’s lubrication.
Some patients may find it difficult to find traditional artificial tears that work for them and that do not irritate their eyes further, but as autologous plasma eye drops are made from the patient’s own blood they serve as a good artificial tear replacement.
Author: Samer Hamada is a distinguished consultant ophthalmologist and cornea surgeon performing eye surgeries at his practice, Eye Clinic London. With nearly two decades’ experience, Mr. Hamada is recognised as a leading expert in the field of cataract, refractive lens exchange (RLE) and corneal surgeries.
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