How Do Ophthalmic Stains Work?

Reviewed on 6/23/2021

What are ophthalmic stains and how do they work?

Ophthalmic stains are dyes or disclosing agents used for visualizing the internal limiting membrane, which is the innermost layer of the retina. Ophthalmic stains selectively stain the internal limiting membrane of the retina and are not absorbed by other retinal tissue.

The internal limiting membrane is translucent and barely visible. Excessive cellular growth in the internal limiting membrane can lead to the development of fibrous tissue (epiretinal membrane) on the macular region of the retina and affect vision. Macula is the central part of the retina with a high concentration of light-sensitive cells which enables sharp, central and color vision.

The internal limiting membrane is peeled off the retina in surgical procedures to treat certain ocular conditions related to the retina and macula. Ophthalmic stains selectively turn the internal limiting membrane blue, which helps to visualize and remove the membrane without damaging other retinal layers.

How are ophthalmic stains used?

Ophthalmic stain is dissolved in a sterile solution of polyethylene glycol and sodium chloride. Before the surgical procedure, the vitreous humor, a clear gel-like liquid that fills the space between the lens and the retina, is removed and the vitreous cavity is filled with balanced salt solution (BSS).

The ophthalmic stain solution is injected into the BSS-filled vitreous cavity. The internal limiting membrane gets stained in a few seconds and excess dye material is removed from the vitreous cavity. Ophthalmic stains are used for peeling the internal limiting membrane in ocular conditions that include:

  • Macular edema: Build-up of fluid resulting in swelling of the macula.
  • Macular hole: A break or hole in the macula, which can distort vision.
  • Macular pucker: A wrinkle or bulge in the macula from the epiretinal membrane.
  • Myopic traction maculopathy (MTM): Also known as myopic foveoschisis, MTM is a condition that causes thickening of the retina and separation of fovea, a tiny pit in the center of the macula, caused by traction forces within the eye.
  • Retinal detachment: Separation of retina from its supportive layer known as choroid.


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What are side effects of ophthalmic stains?

Ophthalmic stains are not toxic and do not irritate the eye or the skin. Side effects are usually from the surgical procedure itself and not from ophthalmic stains. The side effects from ophthalmic surgical procedures using ophthalmic stains may include the following:

  • Retinal tear
  • Retinal break
  • Retinal hemorrhage
  • Retinal detachment
  • Cataracts

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of some ophthalmic stains?

Generic and brand name of some ophthalmic stains include:


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