iStent is tiniest implantable device approved by FDA

Published: Oct. 16, 2015 at 9:40 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 16, 2015 at 10:01 AM CDT
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The smallest medical device ever approved by the FDA is helping to eliminate eye pressure problems for patients who have cataracts and glaucoma.  It is all done through a single procedure and it is giving many patients freedom from daily rounds of eye drops.

Jim Watson of Lake Charles is an attorney who loves to read for pleasure and for work.  Good vision is critical for him, but it was on a vacation two years ago when he realized his eyes were not as healthy as they used to be.  "I told my wife the auto focus camera wasn't focusing when I was looking at it through my left eye," he said, "and she told me that it was.  I came here (The Eye Clinic), was referred to Dr. Murray, had an occlusion, a vein collapsed on my left eye."

Dr. Virgil Murray is an ophthalmologist at The Eye Clinic.  He also diagnosed Watson with cataracts, a cloudiness in the lens of the eye, and glaucoma, pressure within the eyeball.  "You knew it was there," said Watson, "It just felt like something was pushing outward on your eye slightly.  It wasn't horrible, but you knew it was there."

Eye drops help to lower the pressure of the eye, but Dr. Murray says if the glaucoma is not controlled, a patient's field of vision will continue to shrink, eventually causing blindness.  "Most of the time, the pressure in the eye goes up too high, starts to damage the optic nerve," said Dr. Murray, "We treat glaucoma by lowering the pressure in the eye.  Generally that protects you from further damage."

One new tool is the iStent, the tiniest implantable device approved by the FDA, put in during cataract surgery.  "It's basically a snorkel that lets fluid directly bypass the filter, that is the trabecular meshwork, and get from the inside of the eye directly to the outside of the eye," said Dr. Murray.

The iStent is about one millimeter long and one millimeter high.  It is smaller than the date on a penny.  "I never felt it, never knew it was put in.  You're awake during the surgery, but I felt no pain, no discomfort, or anything else," said Watson.

Dr. Murray says the iStent has been very effective with patients seeing a measurable drop in pressure and 75 percent of them stopping at least one medication.

It is not about the numbers for Watson, he says it is about seeing things clearly again for the first time in years.  "You could actually see the leaves on trees, you could read street signs. Good, great, better than good," said Watson.

If you are over the age of 50, or have a family history of glaucoma, it is important to schedule a screening with your eye doctor.

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