Tiny tube made of jelly to stop you losing your sight: Implant could help thousands who have glaucoma
by: SOPHIE GOODCHILD FOR THE DAILY MAIL
- A gelatine tube that’s injected into the eye could help thousands
- May be more effective at draining away fluid than other procedures
- Glaucoma, a condition that affects 600,000 people in Britain
- Cathy Gosling, 65, from London, had it fitted in March
A gelatine tube that’s injected into the eye could help thousands who have glaucoma, a condition that affects 600,000 people in Britain.
It is triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated.
This new implant – which is 6mm long and the width of a hair – helps drain away the excess liquid.
As the 15-minute procedure doesn’t involve any incisions or stitches, patients are said to recover faster, with less risk of infection than with standard surgery.
Furthermore, the gelatine tube may be more effective at draining away fluid than other minimally invasive procedures. The eye naturally produces a watery fluid that fills the space between the lens and the cornea (the clear dome at the front of the eye), giving the eye its shape and providing it with nutrients. The fluid should drain away through tiny channels.
However, these channels can stop functioning effectively, though it’s not exactly clear why. As a result, fluid can’t drain away and pressure builds up inside the eye.
Over time this pressure damages the optic nerve that transmits visual images to the brain.
People over the age of 40 are most at risk from glaucoma and one in ten people in their 80s will develop the disease. As well as age, genes are also thought to play a role.
Glaucoma develops slowly, so there may be no noticeable symptoms, but regular eye tests mean it can be detected and treated early to prevent lasting damage.
Once diagnosed, patients are prescribed eye drops to reduce the pressure, for example by slowing down the production of fluid.
But drops can stop working as the disease becomes resistant to their effect, meaning alternative treatment is necessary.
The ‘gold standard’ procedure is a trabeculectomy. With the patient under anaesthetic, the surgeon cuts into the eye wall to create a new opening – or channel – allowing fluid to drain out.
But this carries the risks associated with surgery, such as bleeding and infection, and recovery of up to three months.
There are also treatments where doctors insert a metal tube, or stent, into the eye’s existing drainage channel.
This form of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery is quicker to perform and non-invasive compared to a trabeculectomy, so has a quicker recovery time (four weeks) and less risk of infection.
The new Xen Gel stent combines the benefits of trabeculectomy with those of minimally invasive surgery………