Glaucoma is an eye disease caused by increased intraocular pressure that damages the optic nerve over time and cause blindness if left untreated. Though it's often associated with diabetes, the condition can develop independent of this disease or in connection to others such as high blood pressure. While the most common treatment for this condition is the use of eye drops, a few studies have shown that micro stents can also be effective at keeping intraocular pressure at a healthy level. Here's more information about this particular treatment option.
How Micro Stents Work
Micro stents are tiny devices made of biocompatible materials that are surgically implanted into the eye. High intraocular pressure is caused by the buildup of fluid in the eyes. These tiny stents help collect the excess fluid and reroute it to an alternative pathway out of the ocular area. This helps reduce eye pressure as well as prevent excess fluid from traversing through—and therefore, further damaging—areas that were already ravaged by the disease.
A few studies on the efficacy of micro stents show they can be very effective at reducing intraocular pressure. One randomized study by the iStent Study Group found that 66 percent of the treated eyes that received these implants were able to achieve a 20 percent reduction in intraocular pressure after a year. In contrast, only 48 percent of the eyes in the control group were able to achieve the same outcome.
In another smaller study involving 69 patients, 85 percent of the people who had the stent placed during cataract surgery no longer needed to use eye drop medication to control intraocular pressure after six months. The results continued to remain the same when researchers followed up a year later.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Micro Stents
Possibly the primary benefit of using micro stents is the need to use eye drops is significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. This, in turn, abolishes some or all of the disadvantages associated with using medication to control the pressure. For instance, people don't have to worry about remembering to use the drops every day, so compliance with the doctor's instructions won't be a problem.
Micro stents are also good for people who can't tolerate the eye drops, are allergic to some of the ingredients they contain, or can't use them because they conflict with other medications the person may be taking. For instance, beta blockers can cause low overall blood pressure, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
However, micro stents are not without their own risks and side effects. For example, they can cause a condition called hypotony. This is when the pressure in the eye gets too low for the eye to function properly and may lead to retinal detachment or hemorrhages.
Another complication can occur if the implant is situated too close to the surface of the eye. This can cause the cornea and other eye tissues to erode, leading to the stent becoming exposed over time. This may result in the stent failing partially or completely and needing to be replaced at a later date.
In general, though, these stents are safe to use as long as they are implanted by a knowledgeable and skilled surgeon.
Costs of Micro Stents
A micro stent can cost around $1,000 or more depending on the brand. The actual surgery itself will add to that amount, but the price will vary significantly depending on who does the procedure and where the person has the operation (e.g. private office vs. hospital).
Luckily, glaucoma is a recognized medical issue. Therefore, your health insurance may pick up some of the cost associated with getting this procedure done. However, you should contact your provider to make sure it is covered before discussing this option with an ophthalmologist.
For more information about micro stents and how they can help you combat glaucoma, contact a local eye clinic like Country Hills Eye Center.