Tiny implant helping San Diego grandmother keep her vision

Posted at 5:55 AM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 11:19:14-04

LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) - On her sofa couch, which her grandchildren refer to as her "throne," Eleanor Madsen has time to think about all the things that make her life full.

"I'm just a happy, happy lady," said Madsen.

She's got her knitting, her grandkids and, of course, her smartphones games.

Madsen tries not to take anything for granted these days like she used to with her eyesight. She was seeing a specialist for her cataracts and then learned she had glaucoma.

"My grandmother lost her vision to glaucoma, so that, of course, was the first thing that came to my mind," said Madsen.

Her doctor, Dr. Quang Nguyen, is the director of Glaucoma Services at the Scripps Clinic. He said there's no cure for glaucoma, only ways to control it, like eye drops.

"It's a devastating disease and a slow, progressive disease. So if we can stop the blindness, we give patients a better quality of life," said Nguyen.

Madsen took the drops religiously but dealt with side effects, like burning and darkening around her eyes. They're also costly.

"I'm an old lady, I'm on a budget; I'm really happy I don't have that expense anymore," said Madsen.

Eye drops are a thing of the past now after she received an iStent implant.

Nguyen said it's the smallest medical device put into the human body, about the size of one digit on a penny. It works to improve the natural flow of fluid in the eye.

After the procedure, Madsen said she felt no pain, only relief.

"You ask me how I feel; I think you can tell by just looking at me. I'm excited this is one less thing I have to worry about," said Madsen.

Nguyen said while some patients are eye-drop free after the implant, that's not the case for everyone.

Right now, you can only get the procedure done if you're undergoing cataracts surgery.

A clinical trial is underway at Scripps so patients can have the iStent as a standalone procedure.

Click here to learn more about glaucoma, including symptoms and treatments.