A new device to manage the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness – the Xen Glaucoma Gel Implant – is now available in Australia.
The implant, developed in part with technology created by Professor William Morgan and Professor Dao-Yi Yu at the Perth Lions Eye Institute more than 20 years ago, is now entered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, to reduce intraocular pressure, or high eye pressure, in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma where previous medical treatments have failed. It is also reimbursed on the Private Health Insurance Prostheses List.
There are approximately 300,000 people in Australia diagnosed with glaucoma, with primary open-angle glaucoma being the most common form. One in 50 Australians will develop glaucoma in their lifetime, and this risk increases with age; one in eight Australians aged more than 80 years will develop it.
There is no cure for glaucoma, and the only proven treatment is to reduce eye pressure. Glaucoma is known as ‘the silent thief of sight’ because it affects side vision before central vision, not readily noticeable in day-to-day life. Generally, there are no symptoms or warning signs in the early stages. Currently, about 50 per cent of people with glaucoma remain undiagnosed, and if left untreated, it can lead to blindness.
The Xen Gel Implant is a tiny gel tube 6mm in length, the size of an eyelash. It becomes soft and flexible when hydrated during a surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist specially trained in the Xen procedure. The Xen Gel Implant is inserted into the eye and works by creating a small tunnel that allows the fluid within the eye to drain away and therefore lower eye pressure. The Xen Gel Implant has been shown to reduce eye pressure for more than 12 months.