Although there is no cure for glaucoma, it can be treated with medication or surgery. The goal of any glaucoma treatment method is the same: lower intraocular pressure to a safe range so it does not damage the optic nerve.
Medicated eye drops are often the first course of treatment, but they have many drawbacks. Eye drops are expensive, difficult to administer, uncomfortable, and can cause issues with heart rate or breathing in some patients. The biggest downside to eye drops, according to Heather Sheardown, a chemical engineer at McMaster University, is that “it’s a lousy delivery system.” About 95 percent of the medication never reaches the eyes because it is blinked away. Consequently, intraocular pressure remains high, and patients need higher and more frequent dosing to lower it to a safe range.
Sheardown and a team of graduate students at McMaster have created a new glaucoma eye drop that does not wash away with blinking or tears. The drops contain tiny molecular packets of medicine that lodge themselves in the base of the tear film. They gradually dissolve and release the entire dose of medication over time, making them more efficient and cost-effective.
Because the drops are concentrated and release slowly, they would be a good option for older glaucoma patients who have reduced manual dexterity. Conditions like arthritis can make it challenging for patients to adhere to their treatment plans, but Sheardown’s modified drops reduce the number of required doses and make compliance easier.
Although there is widespread enthusiasm about this new product, the eye drops are not available for consumers yet. They still need to go through further testing to prove their safety and effectiveness, but Sheardown hopes that the new eye drops will be on the market in the near future (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).