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Honey gel and drops useful for dry eye


Associate Professor Katrina Schmid  Photo: QUT


By Helen Carter


A world-first trial comparing antibacterial honey eye gel and drops with standard treatment for dry eye shows the honey products significantly improve symptoms over and above conventional therapy.

Patients used less eye lubricants while using Optimel Antibacterial Manuka Eye Gel or Optimel Manuka+ Dry Eye Drops and said their eyes felt better and not gritty. Most chose to continue using the honey treatments after the study concluded.

While the conventional treatment of eye hygiene and lubricants also significantly improved symptoms, the honey products improved the condition more and had an antibacterial effect, lowering Staphylococcus epidermis counts.

The project was specifically on meibomian gland disease induced dry eye, the most common cause of dry eye, but it did not cover every type of dry eye.

The Optimel products are the first therapeutic honey products regulated as a medical device for professional eye care in Australia.

The study in 114 people with evaporative dry eye due to moderate to advanced meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) was published online on 6 June in Optometry Australia’s journal, Clinical and Experimental Optometry.

‘The honey products used twice daily over two months were demonstrated to improve multiple factors involved in pathogenesis of MGD and evaporative dry eye and improve related dry symptoms and clinical signs,’ the authors wrote.

Patients were randomised to eight weeks of twice-daily gel containing 98 per cent Leptospermum species honey plus conventional therapy of warm compresses, lid massage and preservative-free lubricant; twice-daily eye-drops comprising 16 per cent honey plus conventional therapy; or conventional therapy alone.

Significant improvements 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 the drops while the gel was significantly more effective at improving meibum quality and gland expressibility.

Significant improvements in meibomian gland expressibility and InflammaDry, which detects elevated levels of MMP-9 inflammatory marker consistently elevated in tears of patients with dry eye, occurred for both honey products.

Bacterial counts reduced

Staphylococcus epidermis counts reduced significantly with both honey treatments but total eyelid marginal bacterial colony counts reduced more with the drops. Drops also reduced lubricant use the most.

Trial co-author, optometrist Associate Professor Katrina Schmid from Queensland University of Technology School of Optometry and Vision Science, said that while all treatments 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,’ she told Australian Optometry.

‘Analysis of the eyelid swabs showed the honey products reduced both forms of staph colony counts, and although conventional treatment of eyelid scrubs can improve meibum quality which eventually reduces bacterial counts, the honey product had a much greater effect.

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

‘A  very small number of participants dropped out of the study because of adverse effects of stinging or temporary redness, which is known to occur with the honey treatment, but the majority of the participants’ eyes felt so much better that  they were prepared to put up with a bit of stinging because of benefits.

‘We know that we have to warn people about the transient sting on instillation.’

Confident of improvement

‘There is now strong evidence these honey therapies help in this condition, and more than standard treatment,’ she said. ‘Practitioners can suggest it to patients and know with confidence that they   will see a benefit and should get significant improvements over two months.’

Professor Schmid said she had received relief for her own dry eye from the product and used the gel before bed and during the day when needed.

She said it would be good to be able to follow users of the honey treatment over a longer time, for example five to 10 years, to see if the therapy affects progression of their dry eye disease, if patients continue to use less lubricants and if they continue with or abandon the combined treatment.


Optimel Manuka dry eye drops - online

Photo: Melcare Biomedical


Outstanding response

CEO of Melcare, the company which produces Optimel, Anthony Moloney, said the drops were for less severe, mild to moderate dry eye, while the gel was for moderate to severe disease but they could be used together. For example, gel can maintain the eyelid margin and be applied before bed to reduce eye mucus discharge in the morning, supported by drops throughout the day.

He said the products were included on Australia’s Register of Therapeutic Goods three years ago, and were also being sold in some Middle East countries and the United Kingdom. He hoped they would soon go on the market in the USA and mainland Europe.

‘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,’ he said.

‘They are different products from what they have been used to for dry eye, and are among the leading products sold for chronic dry eye. We’ve done a lot of post-market monitoring with feedback from clinicians and consumers.’

Mr Moloney said the honey products should be used as adjunctive therapy for dry eye and were an effective management tool to manage MGD and blepharitis. He 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 in eye care for thousands of years but it has now been developed to a sterilised, standardised, pharmaceutical grade form and we understand how it works and people who it might be suitable for.

‘This new study is part of ongoing post-market clinical follow-up to ensure it works as expected and to further support indications.’

Optimel honey gel and drops are sold by optometrists in every state and territory of Australia, and Melcare encourages people to see their optometrist first for a dry eye diagnosis and advice about which product to use. Optometrists can source the products from Designs For Vision.

Optimel Dry Eye Drops are also sold over the counter at pharmacies.

Light therapy useful

The same authors reported in the journal on another trial which found that serial intense pulsed light therapy combined with meibomian gland expression significantly improved dry eye symptoms and clinical signs, including meibomian gland secretion quality and expressibility and ocular surface inflammation in moderate to advanced MGD. Treatment effects were cumulative and sustained for at least six weeks after the final treatment.

17 comments for “Honey gel and drops useful for dry eye”

    Posted Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 8:25:49 AM

    For some reason or some where claims that Opti-Mel also can improved eyes signs. I start using Opti-Mel Gel for two days now guess I have to wait and see. But only my concern is can this Opti-Mel Gel can be used in person who doesn't have eyes problem such as meibomian gland disease or dry eyes problems ?

  2. Posted Friday, September 8, 2017 at 6:18:58 PM

    Dry eye syndrome is a problem involving your tears. Your eyes need tears to stay clean and healthy. With dry eye syndrome, your tear glands don't make enough tears or your tears evaporate too fast. These honey and eye drops are the best for this eye condition. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Gravatar of kathleen robertokathleen roberto
    Posted Monday, October 23, 2017 at 7:42:38 AM

    I have ocular rosacea and dry eye for which I use Restasis
    and Xiidra eye drops. The ocular rosacea is particularly distressing and wondered if the honey gel or drops might help with the styes associated with the rosacea?

  4. Gravatar of Anne ranceAnne rance
    Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 at 10:36:29 AM

    Hi I have server dry eyes , it has been like this for years , I have spent so much money on eye drops , ointments , done have really helps , this is really getting me down . I was just wondering if the manuka eye drops would help , any advice would be great .thank you

  5. Gravatar of John salottiJohn salotti
    Posted Monday, November 27, 2017 at 7:50:54 PM

    I have started useing opti mel
    It has to be the best
    Drops i have used

  6. Gravatar of David EnsingerDavid Ensinger
    Posted Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 3:40:03 PM

    If have kerataconus and also have dry eye. I have to wear sclera contact lenses as well. Until recently I have never found any eye drops that eased the symptoms of dry until an optermetrist suggested I try optigel. i tried the gel and found it to be excellent. However after running out of the gel I bought the eye drops and they are even better. They have certainly imporved my dry eye so that I don't need to use eye lubricants. I am very happy with the drops. I have had corneal grafts which are over 30 years old and still going strong so i need to keep them healthy. I hope this helps anyone considering optimel products.

  7. Gravatar of KrisKris
    Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 9:44:49 AM

    Thank you for this great article. It motivated me to try the Optimel drops and I've seen a tremendous improvement. I've been using them twice a day for 3 months and I'm just wondering if it's ok to use them on a long term basis or I should have a break. Is the preservative that they contain generally quite harmless?

    Posted Monday, January 8, 2018 at 10:17:14 AM

    I had Left Eye Herpes before 3 years. Now, I have extreme eye dryness in my both eyes but eye herpes is not active. Is it safe for me to use Opti Mel Eye Drops or Gel ?

  9. Gravatar of Julie JonesJulie Jones
    Posted Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 2:37:05 AM

    How long does it take to notice a difference with optimel honey eye drops. I have really bad mgd and blepharitis.

  10. Gravatar of Sandra AdkinsSandra Adkins
    Posted Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 1:59:07 AM

    Would you send a sample honey drops been dealing dry eyes for years now eye pain .
    Bless you

  11. Gravatar of Tisa WoodburnTisa Woodburn
    Posted Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 7:24:14 PM

    How can l place an order?

  12. Gravatar of VasoVaso
    Posted Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 2:53:26 AM

    How does optimal help blepharitis from the trials? The article refers mostly to dry-eye problems but I’m keen to know more about how or why it can assist with blepharitis as promoted on the label.

  13. Gravatar of MahavirMahavir
    Posted Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 12:33:32 AM

    As per my knowledge optimel is not available in India(if available provide link) take an initiative so that it will be available in future

  14. Gravatar of Nicole Nicole
    Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 3:04:51 PM

    Does the Gel sting more than the drops do?

  15. Gravatar of BelindaBelinda
    Posted Saturday, May 19, 2018 at 8:36:36 AM

    Been using drops for 1 week and so far I am very impressed. They do have a little kick when you put them in.

  16. Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 5:09:22 PM

    i will try this

  17. Gravatar of TammyTammy
    Posted Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 10:24:36 AM

    Great article, thanks. Do the drops contain a preservative - I read on the box that they do. As I was told to avoid preservatives I left them on the shelf. I will be sending this to my Optician, hopefully I can get the gel through them.

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