New 3-year implant means longer-lasting help for diabetic eyes

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Vision loss is one of the most feared complications of diabetes.

Vision loss is one of the most feared complications of diabetes.

And a recently-approved implant is making it easier for doctors to deliver sight-saving drugs to some patients.

Dr. Barry Jacobson doesn't officially have diabetes yet, but he's very familiar with it.

"My sugars go up & down, my dad's a diabetic, my grandma was a diabetic," he says.

And about 2.5 years ago, he started having a diabetic problem in one eye.

"Everything is smudgy and blurry. Initially, I thought it was from computer use, because I just went with electronic records and was looking at a computer 8 hours a day," he told Action News.

Jacobson actually had diabetic macular edema.

Blood leaks from tiny vessels in the macula - the spot in the back of the eye where vision should be sharpest.

A normal macula is fairly smooth, and has an even depth.

Dr. Jacobson's has a large hump, from swelling beneath the surface.

Images can't form properly, so a person's vision becomes distorted.

"Think of it as having swelling in the film in the back of your eye," says Dr. Stephen Sinclair, of Sinclair Retinal Specialists.

Macular edema is the leading cause of diabetes-related vision loss.

There are medications to slow the leakage, however, they have to be injected every 4 to 6 weeks.

Recently, the FDA approved a new option - Iluvien.

It is a 3.5 millimeter rod of steroids which is implanted into the eye, and it lasts 3 years.

"Tiny little rods of slowly dissolving material," says Dr. Sinclair.

Dr. Sinclair believes the long life of the Iluvien implant will make it easier for diabetic patients to keep up with eye care.

"It'll help tremendously with the treatment and acceptance of the treatment," says Dr. Sinclair.

Jacobson says anesthesia makes the implant bearable, but more importantly, he's happy he'll have good vision in both eyes for a long time.

"To me, it's a great idea," Dr. Jacobson noted.

Jacobson is recently back from vacation, and says he saw all the sights perfectly with both eyes.

Many major insurance companies are now covering the cost of Iluvien.

But it is not for anyone with glaucoma, or high pressure in their eyes.

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