For decades, patients facing surgeries have had blood draws in advance, so it can be stored and put back into them if needed. That procedure minimizes the risk of complications from transfusion of another donor’s blood. Eye doctors now employ a similar approach to treating dry eye disease, using autologous serum drops (ASEDs) which are made from the patient’s own blood.
Dry eye disease occurs when your eyes can’t lubricate themselves properly, either from producing too few of tears or tears of poor quality. This tear imbalance may lead to inflammation and irritation to the surface of the eye.
Traditional remedies include warm compresses, artificial tears and prescription medication. Punctal plugs, tiny silicone or collagen implants that block tears from draining from the eye too quickly are another option. Autologous serum drops were once used mainly as a last resort for people who didn’t respond to other treatments. Now, they have become more popular as they’ve become more accessible.
How Are Autologous Serum Drops Made?
Eye doctors send patients to a compounding pharmacy that will draw blood, let it clot and spin it in a centrifuge for half an hour. The heavier red-blood cells settle to the bottom, leaving a liquid portion of the blood on top. The sample is diluted with a preservative-free saline solution. Finally, the solution is poured into sterile eyedropper bottles that remain frozen until they’re needed. (After that, they stay refrigerated.)
One blood draw could yield anywhere from one to three months’ worth of daily drops. The yield depends on the amount of blood collected, the concentration of the prescription and the dosage frequency.
ASEDs naturally contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, plus proteins, growth factors, vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes. Typically, these ingredients are not found in over the counter or prescription eye drops.
Serum eye drops contain many of the same components as basal tears, the kind a healthy person produces constantly to coat the eye. Those are not the same as reflex tears produced to wash away harmful irritants. This explains why someone can tear up frequently yet still have dry eye.
Who Might Benefit?
There are numerous factors that can worsen dry eye, whether it be eye surgery, trauma, hormonal changes, systemic disease or even medications. Fortunately, because ASED’s are made from your own blood, there are very few contraindications whether from fear of needles, collapsed veins, low hemoglobin levels or certain communicable diseases. In those cases, allogenic serum drops can be concocted with blood from a donor compatible with the patient. The procedure works the same way, with as minimal a risk of rejection as possible.
ASEDs have benefits that go beyond dry eye, too. They were used in the 1970s and 1980s to treat thermal and chemical burns in the eye. They can help with Sjögren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disease where blood cells attack moisture-producing glands in the body. Doctors can even use ASEDs to treat recurrent corneal erosions. This condition happens when the topmost layer of the cornea (the epithelium) loses its ability to properly anchor to underlying layers typically following trauma. ASEDs are also used for superior limbic keratitis and other inflammatory illnesses.
ASEDs can be used both chronically and acutely, for long-term care or immediate help. For example, your doctor may use them to assist in wound-healing following an infection to the cornea for short periods. Because they come from the patient’s body, they typically do not lose effectiveness over time.
If you suffer from dry eye, call Horizon Eye Care at 704-365-0555 Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The optical department closes on Fridays at 2:30 p.m.