Glaucoma affects nearly 3 million Americans and is one of the leading causes of blindness in our country. This disease often has no warning signs or symptoms in the early stages, earning the nickname “the sneak thief of sight.” While a condition like cataracts is treatable and reversible, glaucoma has no cure and causes irreversible vision damage. Quietly and often painlessly, glaucoma withers away the optic nerve of the eye over time.
About five percent of patients have both cataracts and glaucoma. Instead of scheduling separate procedures to treat cataracts and glaucoma, eye surgeons can now treat both conditions simultaneously. An innovative device called iStent can be implanted in the eye during cataract surgery. About the size of a grain of sand, the iStent is the smallest FDA-approved device for implantation. The tiny device is placed in the drainage canal of the eye to increase the flow of intraocular fluid out of the eye to lower eye pressure and preserve the optic nerve.
Many patients who have chosen the iStent have experienced significant cost savings in their prescriptions because iStent often reduces or eliminates the need for eye drops. Because the device is so small, patients cannot feel it in their eye. The best news is that iStent is covered by insurance. Although it may not be for everyone, it may be worth a conversation with your eye doctor to see whether iStent could help treat your glaucoma.
If you do not have glaucoma, you can focus on prevention. The best way to prevent glaucoma is to schedule annual comprehensive eye exams with your ophthalmologist. African Americans are much more likely to be visually impaired from glaucoma than Caucasians, and family history can also play a role in its development. Knowing your risk and getting regular eye exams are effective methods of prevention. A simple pressure test known as tonometry can detect elevated pressure in your eyes which could indicate glaucoma (Source: CBS Indy).