NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Glaucoma is a common, serious eye condition that — left untreated — can lead to blindness, and it’s not just a problem for older people.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, a tiny new device is helping to save people’s eyesight.
Lori Karavolis, a 49-year-old nurse and mother of four, was in danger of losing her eyesight.
She has a family history of glaucoma, so she would have the pressure inside her eyes checked regularly, suddenly she got bad news.
“Sky high actually, almost a dangerous level,” she said. “Will I go blind?”
One way glaucoma develops is when fluid in the eye doesn’t drain normally through tiny mesh-like channels.
“It’s peripheral vision loss, almost as a tunnel vision, as it gets to be more advanced. And then ultimately it can be full vision loss,” Dr. Jennifer Davis explained.
Drops and laser surgery are treatment options, but those channels can close up again.
Now, there’s a tiny implanted device called the I-stent that acts as a kind of drain for the excessive fluid.
It’s a one millimeter titanium tube that’s put in the drainage channels of the eye.
“We’ve seen a huge improvement in intraocular pressure after surgery,” Dr. Davis said, “There patients continue to be on fewer drops or no drops, and that’s really the idea.”
It’s meant for people with mild to moderate glaucoma, but it’s only implanted in people who are also having cataract surgery.
“It’s not painful at all, and you’re back to work or your life the next day,” Karavolis said, “I’m doing great. I don’t have to have drops, and just the daily thought of not having that increased pressure.”
The I-stent was FDA approved in 2012, but it’s only recently that it’s been in widespread use.
Health insurance companies and commercial insurers have been covering it.
The vision lost to glaucoma doesn’t come back. That’s why regular eye exams are important, to catch and treat glaucoma before it causes vision loss.