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'Micro-Stents' May Hold Potential to Treat Glaucoma
Date:11/13/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Tiny devices that allow fluid to drain from the eye could reduce the dangerously high pressure in the eyes of glaucoma patients.

These "micro-stents" -- including one that's newly available and others that are under development -- come with caveats. They may not protect the eyes from glaucoma in the long term, and it's unclear if they're effective when not used in conjunction with cataract surgery.

Still, research continues. This week, scientists released a preliminary study of one type of micro-stent that says it allowed most patients to avoid having to take eye drops to control their eye pressure. Dr. Thomas Samuelson, a glaucoma specialist with Minnesota Eye Consultants, was the study's medical monitor.

Dr. James Salz, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California, said that the future of the use of the devices depends on whether the "success rate is high and complication rate is low."

In many patients with glaucoma, the fluid inside the eye creates pressure that damages the optic nerve. Most glaucoma patients are able to control their eye pressure with eye drops and don't need surgery. But the drops can cost as much as $100 a month and require patients to use them for decades, Salz said.

Those aren't the only drawbacks to eye drops, another expert noted.

Many patients don't like the drops and fail to use them on a regular basis, said Dr. Alfred Sommer, a professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and dean emeritus of Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. Another option is surgery to allow better draining of the fluid in the eye.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a "mini-stent" known as the iStent to treat glaucoma patients who also have a cataract. The stent, a tiny tub
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