AN Edinburgh hospital has become the first in the country to offer a pioneering treatment for the eye degeneration condition glaucoma - which they say can help preserve vision.
The Edinburgh Clinic, is offering the innovative treatment called the XEN Gel Implant, a tiny drainage tube made of a soft, flexible collagen, that is the width of a human hair.
The implant enables excess fluid to drain from the eye thereby relieving the high eye pressure caused by glaucoma, preventing damage to the optic nerve, and helping to preserve vision.
Glaucoma is one of the commonest causes of blindness and the second largest cause of blindness in both eyes in the world.
It is estimated that 6.7 million people worldwide are currently blind from glaucoma and only cataract is a greater cause of severe visual loss.
In the United Kingdom, glaucoma accounts for 12 per cent of all cases of blind registration.
Ophthalmic surgeon and glaucoma specialist, Dr Andrew Tatham explains: “The new XEN Gel Implant is a welcome addition to the treatment options for patients with glaucoma and comes at an important time with the announcement of the investment in pachymeters too.
“Scotland is first country in the world to give optometrists this equipment. It should help reduce unnecessary referrals to hospital while helping to identify people who are at high risk of glaucoma. Our new glaucoma treatment is also a real breakthrough as it is less invasive than the traditional operation used to treat glaucoma, known as trabeculectomy. It can be injected quickly and easily and comes with a much faster recovery time than trabeculectomy and does not require any stiches.”
What makes glaucoma dangerous, is that this early vision loss can go undetected and as glaucoma worsens, these compensatory perceptive mechanisms unravel leading to noticeable sight loss, visual impairment and in some cases blindness.
The condition is irreversible.
Glaucoma is most often treated using eye drops but many people eventually need surgery to help preserve their sight.
The most common operation is known as a trabeculectomy, which involves creating a small drainage channel in the eye.
Trabeculectomy requires a long operation during which several stitches are placed in the eye.
There is also a small risk of the pressure in the eye becoming too low, which can reduce vision.
This older form of surgery is more invasive and can have a long recovery period.
Dr Andrew Tatham, concluded: “As with any treatment, the Xen Gel Implant may not suit everyone however we are anticipating that many patients will benefit from it. There are real advancements being made in the fight against glaucoma and this new treatment follows closely on the back of the launch of the Triggerfish contact lens, which monitors eye pressure over a 24-hour period allowing a more effective and detailed picture of the patient’s eye health.
“Glaucoma is a debilitating disease and it’s encouraging that the medical advancements we’re seeing today will help ease the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people.”
One of the first patients to be treated by Dr Andrew Tatham in Scotland is a 60 year old retired police officer from Ayrshire, he said: “I was diagnosed with Glaucoma in my late 50s. It was thankfully caught early on and was managed with eye drops and laser surgery but to avoid further deterioration, I opted for this new procedure. The Xen Gel Stent was fitted in thirty minutes, I had a follow up appointment the next again day and can honestly say that I’m delighted with the results, it was a painless, straightforward procedure.
“I’d highly recommend anyone with glaucoma finding out more about this, its micro-invasive so you can’t feel the stent being fitted and wouldn’t know it was there, it’s also such a quick recovery time compared to other procedures.”
The Xen Gel Implant is priced at £3,100 and is available from The Edinburgh Clinic, part of Aspen Healthcare. For more information on opening hours and treatments or to book a consultation, please call The Edinburgh Clinic on 0131 447 2340 or visit www.edinburghclinic.com.