How Are Regenerative Eye Drops Used For Chronic Dry Eye?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last updated: May 2023
Some of the latest research on dry eye disease has been focused on finding treatments that help regrow damaged tissue. These types of regenerative treatment aim to slow the progression of the disease, regenerate tissue, decrease scarring, and maintain the surface of the eye.1
Tears are crucial to the health of the surface of your eye. They provide moisture and promote normal vision. Tears also have properties that keep the corneal epithelium (outer layer of the cornea) healthy. When there are fewer tears or a problem with tears’ overall makeup, the corneal epithelium may suffer. When the corneal epithelium is not healthy, chronic dry eye may occur.2
How do regenerative eye drops work?
Growth factors that are important for healing are normally found in tears and in the bloodstream. Regenerative eye drops contain a variety of growth factors and anti-inflammatory components. Regenerative eye drops promote the healing of the corneal epithelium and decrease inflammation on the surface of the eye.2
Regenerative eye drops are made with different methods:3,4
Autologous serum tears (AST) are made from the blood of the person who will use them. After a blood draw, the blood is treated and separated. Part of the blood called serum is then mixed in a solution to be used as an eye drop.
Plasma rich in growth factors (PRGF) is also made from blood and similar to AST. PRGF contains molecules that help with blood clotting and other growth factors.
What are the possible side effects
Regenerative eye drops are made from blood or blood components from the person using the drops or a matched donor. Because of this, these drops are biologically similar to your tears. Side effects or complications of regenerative eye drops are rare but may include:2,5
- Corneal ulcer
- Increased discomfort
- Temporary bacterial conjunctivitis (infection of the lining of the eyelids and sclera)
These are not all the possible side effects of regenerative eye drops. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or if you experience any changes that concern you during treatment with regenerative eye drops.
Things to know
Many clinical studies have shown that these eye drops improve healing of the corneal epithelium, reducing symptoms of chronic dry eye. However, there is not a universal way in which these drops are made. Differences in concentration appear to impact the overall efficacy of this treatment. Additional potential disadvantages include:2
- Those with a blood-borne infectious disease cannot use these drops.
- A blood draw is needed to make the drops.
- Once made, the drops need refrigeration or freezing to remain stable.
- Health insurance may not cover the cost of this treatment.
Before beginning treatment for chronic dry eye, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.
Additional treatment options
Along with regenerative eye drops, there are other treatments available for the signs and symptoms of chronic dry eye. Some of these include:6
- Ocular surface lubricating eye drops
- Immune modulating eye drops
- Short-term drugs
- Various devices and procedures, including those to improve tear production
- Complementary and alternative medicine
Moderate or severe chronic dry eye can disrupt many aspects of your daily life. Your doctor will examine your eyes, ask you questions about the symptoms you are having, and work with you to find the best treatment for your condition.