Health Watch -- New Glaucoma Surgery

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A new technique may help save glaucoma patients' sight.

Glaucoma is a potentially blinding disease caused by too much pressure building up inside the eye. It can sometimes be treated with medication, but when medication fails, doctors may have to resort to surgery to save a patient's sight.

Now there's a new surgical technique for treating glaucoma that has fewer potential side effects than other surgeries. The technique involves implanting a tiny metal cylinder -- smaller than a grain of rice -- into the eye to relieve pressure. This mini shunt drains off the fluid that causes pressure inside the eye.

Ophthalmologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, who are among the first to use this technique, say the new shunt has a number of advantages over conventional shunts, which are larger. The mini shunt requires a much smaller incision in the eye, so it doesn't affect eye tissue as much. It leads to less inflammation after surgery, and the procedure is rapid. Patients can have the procedure done on an out-patient basis, and they can usually return to work a week after having the surgery.

Dr. Karanjit Kooner, a UT Southwestern, says that some patients are even able to quit taking their glaucoma medications because their condition improves so much after the surgery.

Glaucoma is the third leading cause of blindness, and regular eye exams can catch it in its earliest stages when it's most treatable.