To start off, glaucoma is a progressive eye condition that causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye which frequently leads to vision damage and ultimately blindness when left completely untreated. The optic nerve is essentially the telephone line from the eye to the brain, responsible for transmitting impulses to the brain from the retina. There is a fluid in the eyes that helps maintain the shape of the eye, and normally, the fluid drains on its own and is absorbed into the bloodstream. However, when that fluid is unable to drain, pressure builds up in the eye, and the optic nerve becomes compressed and leads to cell death. There is currently no complete cure for glaucoma, however, there are medical devices that help slow the degeneration and drain the liquid buildup. Enter, the iStent inject®.
iStent inject by Glaukos, is one of the medical devices that is FDA approved to help patients with glaucoma. The iStent inject is one of the world’s smallest medical devices that can be implanted in the human body (look closer at that image of the penny and you’ll see it in front of Lincoln’s nose). iStent inject is used in conjunction with cataract surgery to reduce the eye pressure that leads to vision loss and is indicated only for patients with mild to moderate primary open-angle glaucoma. [FYI: open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma, and is when the drainage canals become clogged even though the angle in your eye where iris and cornea meet are normal. This is different from angle-closure glaucoma, where the drainage pathways are blocked by the iris.] Typically, glaucoma mainly affects adults around 40 years and older (although it is possible for children and infants to have it), and iStent inject is only approved for adults at this time.
The iStent inject creates two permanent openings between the front of your eye and its natural drainage pathway to increase the flow of fluid (via tiny tubes, or stents), improving and maintaining the overall outflow of fluid to create a lower pressure. Once implanted, the patient should not be able to see or feel the medical device in their eye. The iStent inject is one of the many ways that medical devices, science, technology all help to decrease patient discomfort and help patients with a debilitating disease like glaucoma! Glaukos has every right to consider changing their tag line for the iStent inject to “I swear, it’s for my glaucoma.”