Glaucoma Treatment: What is iStent® Surgery?

If you’re tired of eye drops to manage your glaucoma, there’s an exciting treatment option that delivers big results. The procedure known as iStent® surgery is a remarkable development involving the world’s smallest medical device to be implanted in the human body. With iStent surgery, patients diagnosed with glaucoma can find relief from the disease. All this from an implant that’s just big enough to see with the naked eye. (You’ll discover exactly how small it is a little later in this blog post.)

But before we get to that, it helps to know as much as you can about glaucoma to understand this specialized form of surgery. Here’s a brief review of glaucoma, followed by an explanation of what iStent is.

What is glaucoma?

None of us work well under pressure, and the eye is no exception. High pressure in the eye can harm the optic nerve, the pipeline from the eye to the brain that delivers information about what we see that the brain translates into images. This high pressure or IOP — intraocular pressure in the eye — is what we call glaucoma.

Untreated high pressure can lead to vision loss and even blindness. In a healthy eye, just below the cornea is an open area called the anterior chamber. Clear fluid flows continuously through this area, exiting at the angle where the cornea meets the iris. If fluid flows out too slowly, pressure builds up and can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve. Containing over a million nerve fibers that carry visual information to the brain, any injury to the optic nerve can have a lasting impact on your sight.

Symptoms of glaucoma

Early-stage glaucoma has no symptoms, but as the condition grows more severe, peripheral vision — the ability to see objects to the side — is lost. Those who suffer from glaucoma may experience what looks like tunnel vision with dimness or darkness at the edges. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential as vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be corrected or regained.

MIGS and iStent surgery

Surgery to relieve the pressure is recommended when treating glaucoma. One revolutionary procedure in glaucoma surgery is known as MIGS — Micro Invasive Glaucoma Surgery. Using MIGS, an incredibly tiny stent can be placed in the eye that drains excess fluid and reduces pressure.

MIGS enables New England Vision to offer patients iStent surgery. Through this surgical procedure, the iStent — the world’s smallest medical implant known to be implanted in the human body and the first MIGS device approved by the FDA — is placed in the eye. The iStent restores the eye’s natural ability to drain fluid and may reduce a patient’s need for glaucoma medication.

How big is an iStent device?

When we say micro, we mean it. How small is it? Let’s start with a typical penny. Pick one up and examine the side with Lincoln’s profile. Look for the date on the penny, located on the lower right of the coin. See the four numerals? Now look at one number closely. How small is that? It’s about the size of the iStent implant. So small that it can’t be felt when implanted, the iStent is nonetheless effective in relieving pressure inside the eye.

Cataract surgery and iStent

What makes iStent even more remarkable is that it can be implanted during cataract surgery, making a single surgical procedure effective in addressing two serious eye conditions at once. And even better news:  iStent® is covered by Medicare and most private insurance companies.

If you’re considering cataract surgery, or have been diagnosed with glaucoma and are exploring options, contact the professionals at New England Vision to see if iStent surgery would be a good option for you.

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