Tiny Implant Helps Save Eyesight

North Texas residents are turning to an implant to help them beat glaucoma.

About 3 million Americans have glaucoma — a disease that arrives without symptoms but if left untreated can lead to blindness, as it does for an estimated 120,000 people every year.

For years patients have been taking eye drops, some as many as four a day, to keep the pressure down and reduce the risk of vision loss.

Now, Dallas doctors are using iStent, the smallest medical device known to be implanted into the human body.

According to the maker, Glaukos, iStent is roughly the size of a digit printed on the year on a penny, and it can keep the pressure low while enabling patients to wean off their eye drops.

It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be implanted during cataract surgery for patients who also have glaucoma.

Jackie Potter, 70, had the procedure done earlier this year.

"The eye pressure was getting higher, and then I started having eye pain, so I needed to do something about it," Potter said.

Plus, she says she was tired of using expensive eye drops twice a day.

"It was like $160 for this tiny little thing that lasted not even a month! It didn't feel comfortable to my eye, and it's inconvenient having to do that twice a day," Potter said.

Dr. Anthony Evangelista says Potter was a good candidate for the iStent, which is implanted in the part of the eye where fluid can build up, creating pressure.

"If we can successfully insert the device during cataract surgery, about 70 percent of patients can reduce or eliminate the need to eye drops," Evangelista said.

"About four weeks after that, I was able to go completely off the eye drop, which made me very happy!" Potter said.

Evangelista says most insurance companies will cover the cost of the iStent.

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