HONOLULU - An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people in Hawaii have glaucoma, a group of diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve and can lead to vision loss and blindness. Several large studies have shown that eye pressure is a major risk factor for optic nerve damage.

In open-angle glaucoma, even though an ocular fluid drainage angle is open, the fluid passes too slowly through a meshwork drain. When the fluid builds up, the pressure inside the eye rises to a level that may damage the optic nerve.

When the optic nerve is damaged from increased pressure, open-angle glaucoma and vision loss may result. Experts say the number of people living with glaucoma may increase to nearly 80 million by 2020. 

Jenkins Eye Care's ophthalmological surgeon Jeffrey Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.,  says, "Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the US. It affects two to three percent of the population." He and his coworker Tyrie Jenkins, M.D., were the first in Honolulu to implant iStent inject®, which they say safely lowers intraocular pressure and improves the eye’s natural ability to drain fluid. 

The iStent is implanted during a simple procedure during cataract surgery, creating an opportunity to treat glaucoma in patients undergoing cataract surgery. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved it in June 2018. The iStent inject® involves inserting two tiny surgical-grade titanium implants that create bypasses, or openings, that restore the eye’s natural ability to drain fluid.

80-year-old Karl Kakehi got a clean bill of health in his eye exam today. He goes to the doctor regularly to see if his glaucoma is progressing. Two years ago, Dr. Peterson implanted two stents in Kakehi's left eye.

Dr. Jeffrey Peterson explains, "It bypasses the natural drain in the eye, so it bypasses any clogging in the drain to help lower the pressure."

Kakehi says it was painless and fast. "The procedure was done in 15 minutes. I was in and out. I was kind of impressed," he marvels.

The latest generation of stents are tiny, which doctors say is better. The iStent inject®is the world’s smallest medical device known to be implanted in the human body. Once inserted, the patient will not be able to see or feel the device. It is the latest innovation in trabecular micro-bypass devices, which have been implanted in hundreds of thousands of eyes all around the world

Dr. Peterson notes the difference that the newer technology provides: "There are no sutures involved, faster recovery, faster healing, and because of that, much less risk involved." In April 2013, Jenkins Eye Care was first in Hawaii to offer the first generation iStent.

The recovery time is a week or two, compared to a month or two with the older generations of stents. Kakehi says he's grateful for the technology.

"Your standard of living, you want it to be OK. Eyesight is so important," says Kakehi, who adds that he has a lot to look forward to, now that he's taking care of his vision. 

The FDA approved stent to be implanted during cataract surgery. iStent inject® is indicated for use in conjunction with cataract surgery for adult patients with mild to moderate primary open-angle glaucoma. Many insurance providers cover the cost of this surgery. 

For more information on iStent inject, contact Jenkins Eye Care at (808) 591-9911 or at www.jenkinseyecare.com.