What are Autologous Serum Tears?
Autologous serum (AS) tears, also referred to as autologous serum eye drops (ASEDs), are customized drops made from the patient’s own blood that are diluted in sterile saline or hyaluronic acid. As the serum consists of a complex mix of growth factors, lipids, antioxidants, and proteins, it is similar to the constituents of human tears and offers a more effective treatment for ocular surface disorders. Ocular surface disorders can be harmful to a patient’s quality of life in many ways because they can cause pain and vision loss.
Indications for Autologous Serum Tears
Autologous serum tears are commonly indicated for the treatment of ocular surface disorders, such as dry eye. Dry eye is when the eyes do not produce sufficient tears. Our eyes require tears to stay comfortable and healthy. When we blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye. This keeps the eye’s surface clear and smooth. The tear film is crucial for good vision.
Tears have mechanical, optical, nourishing, and antimicrobial properties. They contain components such as vitamins, fibronectin, and growth factors to support migration, proliferation, and differentiation of the conjunctival and corneal epithelium. The absence of these epitheliotrophic factors, for instance in dry eye, can lead to severe ocular surface disorders such as persistent epithelial defects. Lately, the use of autologous serum tears in the form of eye drops has been reported as an effective treatment for severe ocular surface disorders such as dry eye. Autologous serum tears are by nature non-allergenic and their biomechanical and biochemical properties are similar to normal tears, making it an effective treatment option for dry eye and other ocular surface disorders.
How are Autologous Serum Tears Prepared?
The process of making autologous serum tears is quite simple and convenient. A small amount of your blood is taken at our office by a professional technician utilizing a sterile technique and strict quality controls. The blood is then placed into a centrifuge and separated into its components. The blood serum is collected, combined with sterile saline, and divided into many small dropper bottles. The serum-to-saline ratio may vary according to your physician’s evaluation of the severity of your dry eye disease or other ocular surface disorders. The prepared eye drops are placed in the freezer and stored in a frozen state to maintain optimal freshness and inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms for up to six months. When frozen the eye drops have a storage life of 6 months from the time of preparation. As the eye drops are preservative-free, once opened, a thawed vial should be used within 30 days.
How Effective are Autologous Serum Tears?
Autologous serum tears have been found to be very effective in treating dry eye disease and other types of ocular surface disorders. Autologous serum eye drops have been used to treat a wide range of ocular surface disorders: from severe dry eye syndrome caused by Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or keratitis to moderate temporary dry eye symptoms following LASIK surgery. As these eye drops are derived from your own blood as opposed to that of blood donors, there is no risk of eye drop rejection (called graft versus host disease). The serum concentration is usually 20% for dry eye disease patients. Most patients notice an improvement in dry eye disease symptoms as soon as 2 weeks after starting autologous serum tears. Higher concentrations of 40% or more are often used in advanced disorders such as neurotrophic corneal ulcers. The drops are usually dosed anywhere from 2 to 8 times per day, with 6 times or every 2 hours being the most common, for the treatment of aqueous-deficient dry eye, neurotrophic keratitis, or ocular surface disease secondary to systemic autoimmune disorders.