Glaucoma is a serious and potentially sight-threatening eye condition that causes high pressure inside the eye. The tissues inside your eyes are delicate and are easily damaged by increased pressure; this damage can lead to vision loss or complete blindness. This condition can be treated with medications, but sometimes, that isn't enough, and surgery is required. There are many different types of glaucoma surgeries, including eye stent implantation.

What is eye stent implantation?

Eye stent implantation is a procedure that seeks to lower your eye pressure by allowing excess fluids to drain from inside your eye. This is accomplished by implanting an eye stent in the surface of your eye. An eye stent is a tiny tube that allows fluid to constantly flow from your eye. 

Who is a good candidate for eye stent implantation?

Eye stent implantation is a good option for people who have mild to moderate glaucoma and who are not being helped by glaucoma medications. People with advanced glaucoma will need more invasive treatments.

This procedure is also recommended for people who want to treat their glaucoma without needing to take medications everyday, either because they can't afford the medications or because they have trouble remembering to take them. 

How is this procedure performed?

Eye stent implantation is a simple and minimally invasive procedure. It is performed with topical anesthesia, meaning that your eye will be numbed, but you'll still be awake and able to see what's happening. Your optometrist will make a small cut in the surface of your eye, just beside your iris, the colored part of your eye. Next, your optometrist will push an applicator that looks like a needle into the incision. At the end of this applicator is the tiny stent; it needs to be pushed in place with an applicator because it's too small to be held in your optometrist's fingers. Once the stent is in place, the incision will be stitched, and then you will be sent home to recover.

What is the recovery period like?

Eye stent implantation has a much shorter recovery period than other types of glaucoma surgery. People who have this procedure done may feel better within a few days, while it takes several weeks to recovery from other types of glaucoma surgeries. Your eye may feel red and sore during your recovery period, but this feeling won't last long. If you don't start feeling better quickly, make sure to let your optometrist know right away. 

How effective is eye stent implantation?

Studies have shown that eye stent implantation reduces eye pressure. About 69% of people who undergo this procedure will have normal eye pressure afterwards, without the need for any medications. Other patients see improvement in their eye pressure after this procedure, but still need to keep taking glaucoma medications to keep their eye pressure at a normal level. People who need to keep taking medications usually need to take fewer medications than they did before the surgery. 

Will this procedure restore lost vision?

The goal of eye stent implantation, like all glaucoma surgeries, is to keep your vision from getting any worse. Your vision can't be restored to the way it was before you had glaucoma, even if your eye pressure returns to normal levels. This is because the high pressure inside your eye damages your optic nerve, and at this point in time, it's not possible for these nerve cells to regrow. Researchers are trying to figure out ways to regrow these nerves, so in the future, it may be possible to restore your lost vision. 

Glaucoma is very serious, but fortunately, it's treatable. If you have glaucoma and your medications aren't working, or you're having trouble remembering to take them, ask your optometrist about eye stent implantation.