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Three million Americans could be losing their sight to glaucoma right now. Eye drops work for most but they’re costly and people often forget to take them.

In Life Line tonight: a permanent solution. A warning for you however, you will see some graphic eye surgery so if you’re squeamish, be prepared to look away.

“This step, help prevent infection.”

Joyce Madela is in the ‘See Your Eye Doctor’, but in her mind’s eye, she is envisioning her favorite sights back home; in the Northwoods near Ellie.

“That’s very beautiful lake, I was out there last week and then I was just looking around and then it crossed my mind that maybe someday I won’t be able to see all of these.”

“Do you want your head back down?”

Joyce has battled sight stealing glaucoma for 30 years and her medicated eye drops are not controlling it as well as they once did.

“In some patients the fluid pressure in the eye is too high, and that injures the nerve that carries the vision from the eye to the brain. This nerve has 1.2 million fibers.”

If the expensive drops fail, lasers are off to the next step to allow excess fluids to drain. Eye surgeon Thomas Samuelson says in a healthy eye, a ring like canal keeps fluid pressure safe.

“The natural drainage system of the eye is at the junction of the sclera which is the white of the eye and the clear cornea. Right at the intersection there, the drain passes circumferentially around the eye.”

But for millions of people like Joyce, that canal collapses or clogs up. To access the canal, Dr. Samuelson will first slice 2 tiny flaps in the eye wall; the scalpel is barely larger than the tip of a needle. Next a hair thin catheter made by eye science is inserted into the canal to dilate it. You can see where it’s going, thanks to a flashing orange light at the tip. Dr. Samuelson became a fan of this procedure after helping to test the device in clinical trials. Finally a stint is threaded into the canal to keep it open.

“It’s unique because it helps restore the natural fluid flow in the natural drainage system. Traditional glaucoma surgery completely by passes the natural drain.”

“Dr. Samuelson says this canaloplasty is not for every patient but generally those who are younger and those whose disease is in the earlier stages, when there’s still the luxury of time to try to preserve the natural drainage system of the eye.”

Joyce is in awe at the technology that may save her sight.

“They are so tiny and so delicate and so surprisingly can do anything. It’s really wonderful that they come up with something this ingenious.”

Pretty impressive. And you know, once nerve damage occurs, it cannot be reversed. So it’s really critical to catch glaucoma as early as possible. And because there is usually no symptoms until it’s too late, regular eye exams are very important.
If you want more information about glaucoma’s warning signs and treatments, just click on wcco.com/links.

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