Microscopic implant aims to bring relief to glaucoma patients
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Imagine for a second having a disease that slowly robs you of your ability to see the world.
“I love what I do and where I work. I’m not ready to retire. I want to enjoy life,” said Robert Goodrich, a glaucoma patient.
Dr. Blake Williamson, a surgeon at the Williamson Eye Center, says glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. According to research, more than 120,000 are blind from the disease.
“We call it the ‘thief in the night.’ That’s because it doesn’t cause any eye pain or change how you see straight away, so it takes away your vision slowly. It’s usually your peripheral vision,” said Dr. Williamson. “What I find is that glaucoma can really damage the quality of your vision, things like contrast can be affected by your glaucoma.”
As a Type 2 diabetic with cataracts and glaucoma, Goodrich understands the challenges of the disease firsthand. It causes painful pressure in the eyes.
“Just like your brain and your heart want to exist in a normal pressure environment, so too does your eye,” Dr. Williamson said. “ If the pressure is too high, it causes nerve damage.”
While there is no cure for glaucoma, about five years ago, Goodrich started using a common, but tedious treatment to reduce the pressure the disease puts on the eyeballs.
“Eye drops have traditionally been how we treated glaucoma, but the problem is drops have been expensive, drops have side effects, and many of my patients just aren’t taking them,” Dr. Williamson said.
“I’ve been taking drops,” Goodrich said. “I really don’t want to take those for the rest of my life. They can burn. I sit in front of a computer all day long, so it’s very annoying to take those."
There's a new treatment that can help reduce the burden of glaucoma. It's a device so small you have to squint to see it. It’s called the iStent inject.
Doctors say the iStent is made up of two microscopic implants, which make up the world’s smallest medical device known to be implanted into the body.
Adult patients with cataracts and mild to moderate open-angle glaucoma are ideal candidates for the surgery, doctors say.
Wednesday morning, Dr. Williamson inserted the device into Goodrich’s eye at the end of cataract surgery. This procedure is the first of its kind to be performed in Louisiana.
“We’re already inside of the eye, we’re already taking out the cataract. Why not place two of these stents to help lower the eye pressure too?” Dr. Williamson said. “Inside of the eye, we have a drainage system and the iStent inject comes with two pre-loaded stents, so we can place two pre-loaded stents in different areas of drainage to help better lower the eye pressure.”
Speaking from experience, Goodrich says the results are instant. An iStent was installed in his left eye just a few weeks ago.
“Very quickly, I noticed that everything was brighter and clearer in my left eye,” Goodrich said. “It’s like, when I covered my right eye, it was so bright, but when I covered my left eye, it was dim.”
He’s already seeing the world a little differently and a lot brighter. “ I have the opportunity to bypass all that, so I can feel a lot better. If I can focus on my work better then I’m all for that," he said.
Contact the Williamson Eye Center at 225-924-2020 to schedule a consultation.
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