These Women Take Eye Drops Made From Their Own Blood After Laser Eye Surgery Complications
"My eye is constantly sensing pain."
Now, some women on TikTok say they had complications from two different types of laser eye surgery that's led to them needing to use eye drops made from their own blood for relief.
The first is a 24-year-old woman named Dana who goes by the handle @lifeinrosegold_. Dana shared in a TikTok that went viral that she uses these drops. "I want to show you guys this crazy medication that I have to carry around in this cooler," she said. "It is a medication made from my own blood. Don't worry, it is not gruesome."
Dana said the medication has to be refrigerated at all times, and that it's made from the plasma in her blood. She also said that she has to use the drops eight times a day to try to help repair nerve damage in her eyes. "It feels amazing every time I put it in," she said. Her reason for sharing? Dana said she wants to show people "all the things I have to do to keep my eyes from not feeling like death." She ended on this note: "Isn't it crazy that I actually have medication made from my own blood?"
The type of eye surgery Dana underwent is called LASIK—but another TikTokker @loha.amber, whose real name is Amber, said she also has to use eye drops made from her blood after having a bad experience with laser eye surgery—in her case, PRK. "This is exactly what I have," she said, responding to Dana's video. "The sad thing is, I see people in the comments saying that she's one person who has it."
"I like to describe it as if you had fibromyalgia in your eye," Amber continued. "My eye is constantly sensing pain." She then said she's on "heavy meds to help the pain," noting that "the pain is so strong that some have taken their lives with this condition." The poster said she also has to use drops made from her own blood, which cost "around $200 a month."
"I literally wish every single day that I could go back to contacts and glasses, but I can't," @loha.amber says. Instead, she's hoping to raise awareness of the potential complications of her surgery.
These TikTok stories are alarming, and many people in the comments had questions—you probably do too. Here's what you need to know about the risks of laser eye surgery, and why eye drops made from your own blood can help.
First, what is laser eye surgery?
You probably have a vague idea of what laser eye surgery involves, but you may be fuzzy on the details. There are a few different types of laser eye surgery, but the ones mentioned in the TikToks were PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis)—and the goal of both is to improve your vision.
PRK and LASIK are both forms of refractive laser eye surgery, a type of surgery that uses a laser to correct any vision issues caused by what's known as refractive errors, which just means your eye does not refract or bend light properly. Both of these surgeries reshape your corneal tissue (the clear outer layer at the front of your eye) in different ways.
During PRK, the top layer of your cornea is completely removed, and then doctors reshape the remaining layers of your cornea with a laser. "PRK is more painful because they take the whole top layer of the cornea off and it takes about a week to grow back," Vivian Shibayama, OD, an optometrist at UCLA Health, tells Health. During LASIK, doctors cut a small flap in the top layer of your cornea, then reshape the remaining layers with a laser through that flap opening, then close the flap, says Shibayama, making it less painful and able to heal more quickly.
But because both surgeries involve working on your cornea, which has a lot of nerves, "any surgical procedure or even an abrasion can be very painful," Shibayama says.
How common are laser eye surgery complications?
Up to 95% of LASIK patients are satisfied with their outcome after surgery, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). The AAO says that patients can have temporary side effects, including:
- Hazy or blurry vision
- Difficulty with night vision
- Scratchiness, dryness, and other symptoms of dry eye
- Glare, halos, or starbursts around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Small pink or red patches on the white of the eye.
And, the AAO says, the side effects can be permanent in a "small number" of patients. But data has shown that a fair amount of people can have at least some unwanted side effects. One study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology studied two separate groups of people who had LASIK—262 active duty Navy personnel and 312 civilians. The researchers found that a "substantial portion" of study participants (43% in the first group; 46% in the second group) reported new visual issues after surgery, including dry eye, Overall, though, the researchers found that only 1 to 2% of patients were dissatisfied with their results.
Another study followed patients who had LASIK for five years and found that about half of them had dry eye. That wasn't all: 20% experienced pain or sore eyes, 30% had trouble driving at night, and 40% experienced light sensitivity after surgery.
- Glare and halos around lights, particularly at night
- Scarring of the cornea
- Cloudiness of the cornea
- Corneal infection
The AAO also says that some people may experience blindness after the surgery. And, while around 90% of people have 20/40 vision or better three months after the surgery, it's unclear how many people have lasting unwanted side effects following PRK.
Why might someone need to use drops made from their own blood, due to laser eye surgery complications?
These drops have a name—autologous serum eye drops. And yes, they're made using a patient's blood.
Why blood? "There are several growth factors, nutrients, and other components found in the serum of our blood," Aaron B. Zimmerman, OD, a professor of clinical optometry at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, tells Health.
These nutrients and other ingredients "promote healing of the epithelium—the superficial layer of the cornea," Shibayama says. "It has been shown to help with nerve regeneration" in people who struggle with eye pain, she says, and it's also used to treat severe cases of dry eye in patients who haven't seen relief from other treatments.
"One purpose of the autologous tear is to lubricate the eye, though many different artificial tears accomplish this," Zimmerman says. "The difference with autologous tears is that the nutrients and growth factors further promote healing of the ocular surface."
How are these drops made?
It's actually pretty cool. First, your blood is drawn. "When I place the order for serum tears for a patient, a mobile lab comes to the patient to collect the blood," Shibayama says.
From there, the blood is placed in a centrifuge to separate the different components of the blood. "The serum, a component of the blood, is then extracted and mixed with saline and or other agents such as hyaluronic acid to create a therapeutic tear," Zimmerman says. It's packaged and used as directed by your doctor.
If you're considering LASIK or PRK, doctors recommend being aware of the potential risks. "Laser eye surgery is quite safe, but it is surgery and adverse events can occur," Zimmerman says.
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