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Dissolving eye grains the size of a grain of sand can help save the sight of glaucoma patients

Dissolving eye grains the size of a grain of sand can help save the sight of glaucoma patients

  • For those who find it difficult to administer eye drops, a new glaucoma implant
  • The slow-release Durysta implant treats glaucoma with Bimatoprost
  • Bimatoprost is usually taken in eye drops, one in ten fails to administer it correctly

An eye implant smaller than a grain of sand can revolutionize the treatment of glaucoma, a condition that affects 500,000 British people and is a major cause of blindness.

Measuring only 0.2mm by 1mm, the small polyester plug gradually releases bimatoprost, a drug already found in eye drops commonly prescribed to treat the condition.

However, more than seven in ten patients fail to use their drops properly – which reduces the drug’s benefit – while others struggle with side effects.

An eye implant smaller than a grain of sand can revolutionize glaucoma treatment, stock photo of an elderly woman's eye

An eye implant smaller than a grain of sand can revolutionize glaucoma treatment, stock photo of an elderly woman’s eye

We hope the implant will improve treatment and slow the progression of the disease.

In glaucoma, there is damage to the optic nerve (which sends information from the eye to the brain for processing into images), leading to loss of vision.

It is most common in people in the 70s and 80s, it is usually caused by fluid build-up in the front part of the eye, because it is either made too much or not drained properly.

This increases pressure in the eye and squeezes out the optic nerve, killing some of the fiber it needs to send information to the brain.

The new Durysta implant, made by Allergan, is placed in a pen-like applicator (top) before being injected by a doctor just below the cornea, the protective outer layer of the eye

The new Durysta implant, made by Allergan, is placed in a pen-like applicator (top) before being injected by a doctor just below the cornea, the protective outer layer of the eye

The new Durysta implant, made by Allergan, is placed in a pen-like applicator (top) before being injected by a doctor just below the cornea, the protective outer layer of the eye

Evening exercise can help with glaucoma

Exercising in the evening can help with glaucoma. A study of the fitness habits of nearly 100 people with the condition found that they were active between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. – but not earlier in the day – reduced the risk of glaucoma worsening by 15 percent. Exercise is known to reduce the abnormally high pressure in the eye responsible for glaucoma loss of vision, and a quirk of the body clock may mean its effect is greatest later in the day, the researchers say in the journal Eye and Vision.

The damage cannot be undone, but treatment to lower pressure can slow or prevent vision.

Eye drops are the mainstay of treatment and should be administered up to four times a day. They lower pressure by reducing the amount of moisture the eye makes or by making it easier to drain.

A 2017 study from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, which looked at people with glaucoma while putting in their drops, found that 72 percent struggled to administer them properly.

Other research has found that many people simply forget to put in their drops or not take them because of side effects such as eye irritation.

The new Durysta implant, made by Allergan, is placed in a pen-like applicator before being injected by a doctor just below the cornea, the protective outer layer of the eye. Nestled against the iris, the colored part of the eye, the implant slowly dissolves over time, releasing bimatoprost.

Bimatoprost works by mimicking the activity of prostaglandins, naturally occurring compounds that help drain fluid from the eye.

In two studies involving more than 1,100 patients, the implant reduced the pressure in the eye by a third over three months – similar to regular eye drops. Side effects included blurred vision, eye pain and headache. Rarely, the implant can damage the cornea, leading to permanent vision loss.

Bimatoprost works by mimicking the activity of prostaglandins, naturally occurring compounds that help drain fluid from the eye. Picture: a woman has her eyes tested (stock)

Bimatoprost works by mimicking the activity of prostaglandins, naturally occurring compounds that help drain fluid from the eye. Picture: a woman has her eyes tested (stock)

Bimatoprost works by mimicking the activity of prostaglandins, naturally occurring compounds that help drain fluid from the eye. Picture: a woman has her eyes tested (stock)

The benefits of the implant last about eight months. A patient can only have one placed at the moment, but hopefully they can get replacements if needed in the future. The device was released for use in the US earlier this year, and Allergan plans to apply for UK approval soon.

“Anything that makes it easier for people to treat glaucoma is a good thing,” said Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, clinical adviser to the College of Optometrists.

“Implants are a possible option, but recent research suggests that a pressure-reducing laser treatment called selective laser traceculoplasty may be even more useful.”

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