A laser treatment developed here for glaucoma patients has proven more effective while causing less pain and side effects, according to data from the National University Hospital (NUH).
The treatment - micropulse transscleral cyclophototherapy (MPTCP) - involves shooting small lasers into the patient's eyes, as opposed to the conventional treatment of transscleral cyclophotocoagulation (TCP), which uses a high-intensity laser.
Since last year, 300 patients have successfully undergone the treatment at NUH Eye Surgery Centre.
Within 12 months, 75 per cent of patients who underwent MPTCP had their eye pressure reduced, compared with 20 per cent for the conventional treatment, according to figures NUH released yesterday.
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While 30 to 40 per cent of patients who undergo TCP suffer side effects such as inflammation and shrinkage of the eye, there were almost no side effects reported by patients who received the new treatment. It takes 100 seconds to complete, half the time needed for conventional laser treatment.
The latest treatment was developed by Associate Professor Paul Chew, a senior consultant with NUH's department of ophthalmology, and patented in 2015.
It has been used on 45,000 patients in other countries, such as the United States and the Philippines, over the last two years.
Prof Chew said in a statement: "Patients with advanced glaucoma can now look forward to a treatment which enhances their quality of life."
Glaucoma results in gradual loss of one's vision and can lead to blindness. It is caused by improper drainage of fluid from the eye, causing increasing eye pressure that damages the optic nerve.
While glaucoma is incurable, it can be delayed through eye drops and oral medication. In advanced stages of glaucoma, laser treatment is recommended only after invasive surgery fails to reduce eye pressure.
Three per cent of Singapore residents aged 50 and above have glaucoma, rising to 10 per cent for those aged 70 and above.
The maximum temperature of the laser in the new treatment is 35 deg C, compared with 550 deg C in the conventional treatment. This prevents the pain that is commonly reported by patients who have undergone TCP, Prof Chew said.
Retiree Chee Chean Shyong, 64, underwent MPTCP last month, after discovering the glaucoma in his left eye had worsened in March.
"The only pain was when they did the injection for the painkiller into my eye," said Mr Chee, whose condition has improved.