As the second leading cause of blindness in the world, glaucoma is a serious eye problem. Yet many people are not aware of this vision threatening condition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), among the 4.5 to 5 million people around the world blinded by glaucoma, only 50% of these people are aware that they have glaucoma. However, with newer treatments available, people with glaucoma do not have to go blind.
In the stepwise algorithm recommended by European Glaucoma Society (EGS), glaucoma is treated initially with topical medications, followed by laser or glaucoma surgery if nerve damage and visual field defects continue to progress. New surgical options such as canaloplasty can decrease the accumulating fluid pressure in the eye while reducing the risk of losing sight.
With traditional glaucoma surgery (trabeculectomy), an eye surgeon must create a hole in the eye to drain excess fluid. With canaloplasty, however, only a small flap is made in the white part of the eye (sclera). A tiny tube is then inserted into the eye’s natural drainage (Schlemm’s canal). A special gel is then used to open the canal following which a stent is placed to keep the canal open. As a result, fluid is drained and pressure is reduced by up to 36%.
Because canaloplasty opens the eye’s natural drainage, it may even reduce the number of eye drops needed for treatment of glaucoma. Similarly, one study demonstrated 96% success rate in combined canaloplasty and cataract surgery. Another benefit of canaloplasty is that with less need for glaucoma medications, patients may save over $1,000 per year on their healthcare costs. Canaloplasty also provides peace of mind as compared to trabeculectomy, there are fewer risks of complications after surgery as well as fewer follow-up appointments.
Patients who might be considered good candidates for canaloplasty are those with “open angle” glaucoma unresponsive to eye medications or those who may be planning cataract surgery (as canaloplasty can be done at the same time as cataract surgery).
Only a consultation with a qualified ophthalmologist can determine if you have glaucoma or would be a good candidate for a surgery such as canaloplasty. Once diagnosed, your doctor will guide you toward a treatment that will best suit your needs.