New procedure helps stop glaucoma vision loss

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A new procedure is helping to preserve vision for some people with glaucoma. (WPVI)

A new procedure is helping to preserve vision for some people with glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a silent thief, affecting 3 million Americans, slowly robbing them of their sight.

Many times, in the beginning there are no symptoms.

With glaucoma, the eye's natural drain doesn't work properly, so pressure builds, damaging the optic nerve and threatening vision.

Eye drops can help, but patients often don't use them regularly.

Dr. Jesse Richman of Kremer Eye Center in Cherry Hill, along with others, is using a high-tech new tool called iStent.

iStent is just 1 millimeter long - it's the smallest implant for the human body.

It opens a bypass through the clogged drain.

"We put the glaucoma stent right there to facilitate the way the eye drains out," says Dr. Richman, explaining the device to a patient.

The implant procedure is quick, and patients never know it's there.

"While it's getting done, they can't see or feel what's happening," he says.

Dr. Richman says most patients need less medication after receiving an iStent as their eye pressure drops.

Right now, the procedure is only done for glaucoma patients having cataract surgery.

But tests are underway to see if it can be used as a standalone procedure.

These are some risk factors for glaucoma adults should be aware of:
- Being over age 40

- A family member with glaucoma

- Being African American or Hispanic

- Diabetes

- Migraines

If you have two or more of these, it's a good time to talk to an ophthalmologist about your risks.

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