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Trial Finds Honey Superior Dry Eye Treatment

mivision | 13 July 2017
A ground-breaking Australian trial has identified that a Manuka honey therapy can outperform standard treatments in relieving the symptoms of meibomian gland disease (MGD) induced dry eye, the most common cause of dry eye.

The prospective, open-label study was undertaken by Dr. Julie Albietz and Assoc/Prof. Katrina Schmid  from Queensland University of Technology’s School of Optometry and Vision Science. Published in June in Optometry Australia’s journal, Clinical and Experimental Optometry, it indicated that honey treatment improved the dry eye condition and, unlike conventional lubricants, had an all-important anti-bacterial effect.

All 114 participants in the study underwent two weeks of conventional therapy before being randomised to one of three treatment groups: Optimel Antibacterial Manuka Eye Gel (98 per cent Leptospermum species honey) plus conventional therapy (n = 37), Optimel Manuka plus Lubricant Eye Drops (16 per cent Leptospermum species honey) plus conventional therapy (n = 37) and a control (conventional therapy) (n = 40). The patients who used the honey therapy reported their eyes felt better and not so ‘gritty’. Most chose to continue using the honey treatments after the study concluded.

The authors wrote: “Significant improvements (p ≤ 0.05) occurred at week eight in symptoms, tear break-up time, staining, tear osmolarity, meibum quality and bulbar, limbal and lid margin redness for all treatments. Improvement in staining was significantly greater with Optimel 16 per cent drops (p = 0.035). Significant improvements (p < 0.05) in meibomian gland expressibility and InflammaDry occurred for both Optimel treatments. Optimel 98 per cent gel was significantly more effective in improving meibum quality (p = 0.005) and gland expressibility (p = 0.042). Total eyelid marginal bacterial colony counts reduced significantly with Optimel 16 per cent drops (p = 0.03) but not the other treatments. Staphylococcus epidermidis counts reduced significantly with Optimel 16 per cent drops (p = 0.041) and Optimel 98 per cent gel (p = 0.027). Both Optimel treatments significantly reduced the need for lubricants, with Optimel 16 per cent drops decreasing lubricant use most (p = 0.001). Temporary redness and stinging were the only adverse effects of Optimel use.”

Assoc/ Prof. Schmid said while all treatments (including conventional lubricants) clinically and significantly improved dry eye, the honey therapies improved it the most and the gel was superior.

“It’s a novel treatment for dry eye because it has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and has a different mechanism from those of other products,” said Prof Schmid.

“Practitioners can suggest it to patients and know with confidence that they will see a benefit and should experience significant improvements over two months.

“The trial has provided evidence of its benefits to patients with chronic, long-term and difficult to treat MGD,’ she said.

CEO of Melcare, Anthony Moloney, said “Response from optometrists in Australia has been quite outstanding and from patients, overwhelming. The drops do sting and it doesn’t work for everyone but where it does work, it can be profound”.

Mr. Moloney said good eyelid hygiene, clean eyes and eyelid margins, should always be initial therapy but if lubricants did not manage the condition well, people could try the honey products.

“For most people with chronic dry eye which is difficult to manage, they will be suitable,” he said.

Honey, has been used for eye care and wound care over many years, as it is capable of inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, reducing oedema and promoting epithelialisation.