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Active Manuka honey: A sweet relief for chronic dry eye sufferers

Dr Lee Lenton

02/03/2020

Woman with dry eyes

What is chronic dry eye?

Chronic dry eye occurs when there is insufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye (known as the cornea). A layer of tears normally covers the cornea to keep it moist – this is your body’s natural ‘eye lubricant’. Small meibomian glands in the eyelids secrete oils that reduce evaporation of the tear layer.

Chronic dry eye can be caused by inadequate tear supply or excessive evaporation of tears, resulting in a deficient tear film.

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is one of the most common, if not the most common, causes of dry eye. It occurs when the meibomian glands don’t secrete enough oil into the tears, leading to rapid evaporation of the tear layer.

What are the symptoms of chronic dry eye?

Symptoms of chronic dry eye occur because of corneal inflammation and irritation. Symptoms can include a gritty sensation, feeling like something is in your eye or excessive watering/tearing.

Other signs include red or itchy eyes, a burning sensation, pain, light sensitivity or fluctuating vision. It can be a serious condition and I am often referred patients who are seeking dry eye relief.

People suffering from chronic dry eye may have reduced ability to perform everyday tasks, such as reading or looking at a computer screen for extended periods.

What are the options for dry eye treatment?

MGD is typically a life-long condition requiring ongoing management techniques to soothe dry eyes. Early diagnosis and dry eye treatment offer the best chance of symptom relief and prevention of disease progression.

There is no ‘best cure for dry eye’. Our aim for patients with dry eye is to restore the tear layer and ensure good eye hygiene. Dry eye treatment may involve a combination of simple home remedies (e.g. warm compresses), dry eye lubricants or dry eye ointments, prescription eye drops and sometimes even natural remedies such as flaxseed oil.

Another natural remedy for dry eyes is Optimel Manuka+ Dry Eye Drop™, containing active Manuka honey developed from Leptospermum sp. I have found these drops provide significant relief for many of my patients.

How does active Manuka honey help with dry eye?

Evidence suggests that MGD and tear deficiency may be associated with an overgrowth of bacteria on the surface of the eye. This overgrowth of bacteria is thought to lead to tear film instability and eye surface damage.

Active Manuka honey is well known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Research studies confirm that Manuka honey is an effective treatment for a range of eye conditions, including dry eye relief. It achieves this by lowering the pH and reducing bacterial overgrowth and inflammation, thereby stabilising the surface of the eye.

Are there any side-effects of active Manuka honey?

No serious side effects have been observed, but active Manuka honey preparations such as Optimel can cause initial stinging and redness when applied.

In contrast, the side-effects of some conventional dry eye therapies can include increased risk of eye infection and reduced effectiveness over time – active Manuka honey-based drops are often a suitable alternative for these patients.

What about treating dry eye after cataract surgery?

Dry eye can also be seen following cataract surgery, affecting both patient comfort and visual quality.

I find that Optimel drops with active Manuka honey are also beneficial in these patients, particularly those who have chosen multifocal intraocular lenses.

Don’t put up with chronic dry eyes

Chronic dry eye is a serious condition that can have implications for your vision and quality of life if left untreated.

An optometrist is the first port of call if you think you have dry eyes. They can perform a comprehensive eye examination and begin initial treatment for mild symptoms. For those with moderate-to-severe dry eye, a referral to an ophthalmologist can be organised.

Dr Lee Lenton treats diseases that affect the surface of the eye (e.g. dry eye, red eye, corneal ulcers and chronic conjunctivitis). He is also an experienced cataract and refractive surgeon, having performed thousands of surgeries. Dr Lenton completed pioneering research into dry eye and the use of medicated honey to treat chronic blepharitis and dry eye before and after laser eye surgery and cataract surgery. He practises at our Brisbane and Townsville clinics.

References

  • Gayton JL. Etiology, prevalence, and treatment of dry eye disease. Clinical Ophthalmology 2009; 3: 405–412.
  • Mathers WD. Ocular Evaporation in Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and Dry Eye. Ophthalmology 1993; 3: 347–351.
  • Prabashni R, Oren G, Krithika R. The Economic Burden of Dry Eye: A Conceptual Framework and Preliminary Assessment. Cornea 2004; 23: 751–761.
  • Pflugfelder SC, Solomon A, Stern ME et al. The Diagnosis and Management of Dry Eye: A Twenty-five–Year Review. Cornea 2000; 19; 5: 644–649.
  • Molan PC. Why honey is effective as a medicine. Its use in modern medicine. Bee World 1999; 80: 80–92.
  • Al-Waili NS. Investigating the antimicrobial activity of natural honey and its effects on the pathogenic bacterial infections of surgical wounds and conjunctiva; Journal of Medicinal Food 2004; 7; 2: 210–222.
  • Dougherty JM, McCulley JP. Bacterial lipases and chronic blepharitis. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 1986; 27: 486–491.
  • Bowman RW, Dougherty JM, McCulley JP. Chronic blepharitis and dry eyes. International Ophthalmology Clinics. 1987; 27: 27–35.
  • Albietz JM and Lenton LM. Effect of antibacterial honey on the ocular flora in tear deficiency and meibomian gland disease. Cornea 2006; 25; 9: 1012–1019.
  • Albietz JM and Lenton LM. Standardised antibacterial Manuka honey in the management of persistent post-operative corneal oedema: a case series. Clinical and Experimental Optometry 2015; 98: 464–472.
  • Albietz JM and Schmid KL. Randomised controlled trial of topical antibacterial Manuka (Leptospermum species) honey for evaporative dry eye due to meibomian gland dysfunction. Clinical and Experimental Optometry 2017;100(6);603–615.
  • Gibbons A, Ali TK, Waren DP et al. Causes and correction of dissatisfaction after implantation of presbyopia-correcting intraocular lenses. Clinical Ophthalmology 2016; 10:1965–1970.

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