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    Targeting dry eye in glaucoma patients

    Accurate, reliable diagnostics help to provide effective glaucoma treatment


    Surgical options

    In addition to changing medications, we also can reduce or sometimes eliminate ocular surface disease signs and symptoms with surgery. Once patients have struggled with topical therapy and had the opportunity to demonstrate that there are detrimental side effects, selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a logical step. SLT’s only significant drawback is the fact that it does not have a permanent effect and may need to be re-applied in the future. But for patients who have ocular surface problems from drops, the time without therapy can be a welcome change.

    The growing number of micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) options presents new opportunities for glaucoma patients with dry eye. Because MIGS procedures are relatively less invasive than trabeculectomy, their efficacy in reducing pressure has lower long-term complications. This is a new opportunity that has changed the decision-making process for treatment.

    iStent (Glaukos) is an FDA-approved IOP-lowering MIGS device that is implanted during cataract surgery. Typically, iStent is utilized for patients on single-medication therapy. Along with cataract surgery, it has been shown to eliminate medical treatment in approximately 80 percent of patients at the two-year assessment. 

    Related: New products, advancements in dry eye

    When a patient needs or is close to needing cataract surgery, we frequently plan to use cataract surgery as an opportunity to lower pressure with a MIGS device such as iStent or CyPass (Alcon) and eliminate drops, reduce their use, or switch to a less potent, more tolerable medication after surgery that was not adequate before surgery. My patients have had good results with the Xen Gel Stent (Allergan), which has outcomes similar to but not as profound as trabeculectomy with a much less invasive procedure.

    Dry eye and glaucoma

    To treat glaucoma effectively, we have to diagnose dry eye early and address the problem through conventional dry eye treatment and IOP control that spares the ocular surface. If I see a tear osmolarity of 310 mOsm/L in the left eye and 325 mOsm/L in the right along with positive MMP-9 testing, a TBUT of <7 seconds, staining and blocked meibomian glands, I know my patient needs a comprehensive approach and close monitoring.

    If another patient’s tear osmolarity is a much milder 295 mOsm/L left and 310 mOsm/L right, with a negative MMP-9 test, a TBUT of 10 seconds, no staining, and no visible meibomian gland problems, dry eye treatment with medication, omega 3s and artificial tears is still required because chronic use of topical glaucoma medication will likely cause dry eye discomfort and noncompliance. By treating both problems, we can ensure that the patient is comfortable and the glaucoma is controlled.


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    J. James Thimons, OD, FAAO, ABO
    Dr. Thimons is adjunct clinical professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. He serves as a consultant for ...


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