It is estimated that 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those affected are aware that they have the disease. Glaucoma has very few symptoms in the early stages, but untreated glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. Currently, there are about 120,000 Americans who are blind because of glaucoma, which accounts for 9 to 12 percent of cases of blindness.
There are several ways to treat glaucoma, including eye drops, laser procedures and surgery. Glaucoma drops are often the first type of treatment that is prescribed, but patients often forget to administer their eye drops. Missed doses of eye drops can cause dangerous spikes in eye pressure and damage the optic nerve.
A new and innovative treatment for glaucoma is the iStent, the smallest implantable device approved by the FDA. Only one millimeter long, the iStent is roughly the size of a grain of rice and measures smaller than the date on a penny. The iStent is implanted in the eye during cataract surgery and creates a permanent opening for intraocular fluid to flow freely from the inside to the outside of the eye. This channel helps maintain a safe level of intraocular pressure.
Although patients are awake when the iStent is placed in their eye, they claim that they do not feel any pain or discomfort. After surgery, they enjoy clear, crisp vision and can resume many of their favorite activities. Ophthalmologists are equally pleased with iStent because patients are experiencing a sizeable drop in eye pressure, and most of them are stopping at least one prescription medication (Source: KPLC).
If you have glaucoma, make it a priority to get regular eye exams to protect your vision. Ask your ophthalmologist about emerging treatments for glaucoma that could help you maintain your eyesight and independence.