Innovative New Treatments for Glaucoma
More than 2 million Americans are being treated for glaucoma. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are another 2 million people who have it but don’t know it. As a leading cause of blindness, it is critical to have regular eye exams—even if you have 20/20 vision. If you wait until you notice that your vision is impaired, it is probably too late. The disease is advanced at that point and lost vision cannot be restored.
“We have so many reliable technologies to diagnose glaucoma early so that it can be treated in a timely fashion to decrease the risk of blindness,” declares Marlene R. Moster, M.D., a nationally recognized glaucoma specialist at the Ophthalmic Partners of Pennsylvania who has been at the forefront of glaucoma research for many years.
Glaucoma is a complicated disease that results in damage to the optic nerve, progressively leading to vision impairment and eventually blindness if not treated. It can happen to anyone at any time but the risk increases as you age. People most at risk include African Americans over the age 40, anyone over the age of 60 (people of Hispanic descent are particularly at risk), and anyone with a family history of glaucoma.
Marilyn Krauss’s mother, as well as her aunt and uncle on her mother’s side, went blind from glaucoma. So, even though routine eye exams had not yet detected glaucoma, she decided to see a specialist. She went to see Dr. Moster, who started to see her frequently to test for glaucoma.
After a year, Marilyn was diagnosed with glaucoma. She started with medicated drops to control the pressure build up in her eyes that often occurs with the disease. The drops made her miserable, causing her eyes to become red.
“It is critical for patients to take their medications as directed to prevent blindness, but many patients find compliance difficult,” explains Dr. Moster. “Some drops must be taken 2 or 3 times a day. They can make the eyes red and/or dry, cause allergic reactions, and are expensive. If we could remove even one drop from a patient’s treatment plan, it would greatly affect quality of life.”
Innovative micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) treatments are being developed to treat mild-to-moderate glaucoma. One of the first to be approved by the FDA is the trabecular micro-bypass stent, which is designed to increase the flow of fluid out of the eye. At 1 mm, it is the smallest implantable device and is placed during cataract surgery.
Marilyn had laser surgery a year after she started the drops, which seemed to work—until she developed cataracts. Then her eye pressure started to go up again. Dr. Moster recommended the stent. During surgery, Marilyn underwent three procedures to remove her cataracts, place the stent, and correct her vision.
“It just doesn’t seem possible. I see better at 82 than I did when I was 12!” Marilyn exclaims. “I can see the television, drive at night, and read a novel without putting on glasses—and I’m drop free. It has been a year and I haven’t had to use one medicated eye drop.”
“There are many other MIGS under investigation in the United States and around the world,” Dr. Moster declares. “This stent is just the tip of the iceberg. We are interested in safer options with fewer side effects. For now, we are very pleased that we can offer the stent to our patients.”
Ophthalmic Partners of Pennsylvania is the region’s largest multi-subspecialty ophthalmology practice, providing advanced eye care in the areas of glaucoma and related disorders, cataract and refractive surgery, cornea and external disease, and pediatric ophthalmology.This is a paid partnership between Ophthalmic Partners of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio