New Research: The Future Looks Bright For Hassle-Free Glaucoma Treatments

woman putting eye drops in her eyesAt Key-Whitman Eye Centers, our glaucoma specialists are dedicated to preventing permanent vision loss in glaucoma patients. Daily prescription eye drops are one of many effective treatments our eye doctors prescribe to control glaucoma. While many patients do well with drops, others find it difficult to comply with a daily drop regimen.

According to Key-Whitman’s Plano eye doctor Kimberly S. Warren, M.D., “While daily prescription eye drops are a safe and effective glaucoma treatment option, some patients experience discomfort – burning and stinging of the eyes. Other people simply forget to take their drops or struggle with instilling the proper amount of solution in their eyes, especially those patients with arthritis or dexterity issues.”

Staying on top of changes to insurance plans, coverage and deductibles can also be troubling for some patients.

As Dr. Warren explains, “Insurance typically covers a portion of the cost of prescription eye drops, but plans change every year. Depending on the type of drop and insurance coverage, prescription costs may rise from manageable – $10 to $15 per month – to unmanageable – $40 to more than $100 per month.

“These expenses can be even more problematic for patients who don’t have insurance and/or take multiple medications (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions.”

Slow-Release, Doctor-Instilled Medication May Be Available Soon

Dr. Warren and the ophthalmology community are excited about current research, which focuses on the use of slow-release eye medication to treat glaucoma and reduce reliance on daily drops.

“We’ve used slow-release medication to treat macular degeneration for some time now. Patients love this option, because they can visit their eye doctor for treatment every three to six months, and the treatment keeps their macular degeneration stable. Researchers are applying this same philosophy to treating glaucoma,” Dr. Warren says.

Dr. Warren shares insight on current glaucoma treatment studies that involve slow-release medication instilled in the eyes every three to six months.

Slow-Release Medication Could Increase Compliance, Reduce Patient Costs

If the slow-release medication for glaucoma proves effective and receives FDA approval, Dr. Warren believes patients could experience multiple benefits.

According to Dr. Warren, “Cost and discomfort can deter some patients from taking their glaucoma drops as prescribed. As with the macular degeneration medication, an affordable, single dose of glaucoma medication, instilled in the eyes once every three to six months, could offer many benefits.”

Once these new treatments are approved, Dr. Warren looks forward to simplifying her patient’s lives, as people won’t have to worry about:

  • Remembering to instill eye drops every day.
  • Experiencing burning and stinging in the eyes.
  • Changes to insurance plans, coverage and deductibles.
  • Running out of medication because the drops weren’t instilled properly.
  • Pharmacies not carrying the drops the patient has been prescribed or prefers.

“The other benefit of this form of treatment is that an eye doctor instills the medication – not the patient. This helps ensure patients receive the proper amount of medication,” Dr. Warren says.

Glaucoma Is A Silent Disease, So Prevention Is Key

According to Dr. Warren, “In America, there is no reason for people to lose their vision due to glaucoma today – as long as we diagnose and treat the disease early. Prevention is key for chronic diseases like glaucoma, but you need to be screened regularly, because symptoms don’t appear until the disease has progressed and permanent vision loss has occurred.”

One of the biggest risk factors for glaucoma is a family history of the disease. As Dr. Warren explains, “If you have family members with glaucoma, or you’ve seen anyone in your family use eye drops to treat glaucoma, it’s even more important to be screened early and often.”

Other comorbidities for glaucoma include age (55 and above) as well as diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. People of African American descent and myopic patients are at higher risk.

“If you are over the age of 55 or in another high-risk group, see an eye doctor for a general eye health exam and glaucoma screening right away. The doctor can screen you for glaucoma as well as other eye diseases and conditions, including cataracts, diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration and more,” says Dr. Warren.

Learn more about glaucoma risk factors here.

Many Glaucoma Treatment Advances Deliver Excellent Results

Along with a variety of prescription eye drops, glaucoma specialists like Dr. Warren have plenty of treatment options available in their glaucoma care toolkits. These options help relieve pressure that builds up in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve.

Dr. Warren reviews the range of treatment options available to her glaucoma patients.

“At Key-Whitman, we also offer laser eye treatments that can help halt the progression of glaucoma and reduce reliance on drops. In addition, glaucoma patients who also have cataracts may be good candidates for minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS),” explains Dr. Warren.

MIGS involves the insertion of a tiny stent (smaller than the tip of pen) into the eye to alleviate pressure. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently limits the use of these stents to patients undergoing cataract surgery. Stents, such as the iStent® and the recently approved Alcon Cypass,® have not been approved by the FDA for use in standalone procedures.

Want to learn more about stents like iStent and Cypass? Check out this earlier post: How the Word’s Tiniest Medical Implant Brings New Hope and Relief to Glaucoma Patients

Contact Us Today To Learn How Key-Whitman Can Help You Manage Your Glaucoma

If you would like to learn more about glaucoma screening and treatment options, Dr. Warren is here to help. She is one of Key-Whitman’s top glaucoma specialists and is experienced in all areas of general ophthalmology. A skilled and respected eye surgeon, Dr. Warren has been awarded D Magazine’s, D’s BEST in Collin County, Best Doctor – Ophthalmology and LASIK, for six years running.

In addition, Key-Whitman regularly participates in clinical research to advance treatments and surgical procedures for a variety eye diseases and conditions.

To learn more about clinical trials at Key-Whitman or to schedule an eye appointment with Dr. Warren at Key-Whitman’s Plano office (or to schedule an eye exam at our Dallas, Arlington or Mesquite locations) please call (214) 225-2577, or feel free to set up an appointment online here.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock