(02/28/14) - A new implant may save the sight of some people with an incurable disease. More than 2 million Americans have Glaucoma, but only half know it. Left untreated, it can cause blindness.
In the past, glaucoma sufferers either had to undergo risky surgery or use daily eye drops to help manage this incurable disease.
Linda Sabatini thought she had seen the last of driving. She was slowly losing her vision from cataracts and glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease that causes fluid pressure to build up inside the eye.
"A sustained elevated pressure then causes damage to the optic nerve, the nerve in the back of the eye," says Dr. David Lubeck, of Arbor Centers for EyeCare in Chicago, IL.
Doctors implant a tiny titanium device the eye, called I-Stent. It creates a channel for excess fluid to drain and lower the eye pressure.
"It is minimally invasive. it has little risk compared to other major glaucoma surgeries, and can effectively reduce the pressure in many patients," Lubeck says.
The I-Stent surgery is performed during normal cataract surgery, using the same incisions. The new procedure can reduce or eliminate the need for open angle glaucoma patients to use up to three types of glaucoma medications daily. In fact, 68 percent of glaucoma patients who received the I-Stent remained medication free, at 12 months.
While Linda's new lens from the cataract surgery is what enables her to see clearly, it's the I-Stent that will prevent her from losing vision from glaucoma.
"I can see so clearly," she says.
Even with the I-Stent surgery, glaucoma is not curable, and vision lost cannot be regained. However, with medication and/or surgery, it is possible to halt further loss of vision.
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