Close to 3 million Americans are living with glaucoma, a condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated. In fact Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in this country. African Americans are 15 times more likely to be visually impaired from this condition than Caucasians.
“Glaucoma is a very sneaky disease,” says Dr. Michael Orr of eye surgeons Indiana. “It withers away the optic nerve over about a five or ten year period.”
Two of Dr. Orr’s patients have both cataracts and glaucoma. Their cases are the perfect examples of how to fix two problems during one operation.
“You’re already in the eye. So if you can do something in addition to help that subset of patients, about five percent that have glaucoma,” says Dr. Orr. “You can implant this stent in the drainage channel, which will lower the pressure even further after cataract surgery.”
The stent Dr. Orr uses is extremely small. “It is the smallest FDA approved device for implantation. It’s just a little bit larger than a grain of sand.”
But this iStent does a big job. It creates a path for fluid to drain from the eye, reducing pressure within the eyeball, which in turns save the optic nerve. Long term, it can save patients money. Many can reduce or eliminate drops used to treat glaucoma.
“I don’t put any medication in my eye at this point,” says Steve York, an iStent patient. “i am completely off the drops and I love it.”
Betty Farrow of Roachdale says she still takes drops, even though she has an iStent, too. For her, comfort counts. “It doesn’t hurt. There is nothing uncomfortable about it.”
Dr. Orr says iStents are not for every glaucoma patient. But these FDA approved devices are helping save sight. “The only way we can treat it is to lower the eye pressure,” says Dr. Orr. “You can’t change genetics. We can’t change the structure of the eye. We can only treat the eye pressure.”
The good news is iStents are covered by insurance. For more information on iStents click here.