New glaucoma treatment replaces the hassle of applying eyedrops daily

SINGAPORE - Eyedrops for glaucoma must be applied daily to keep the condition in check, something the elderly often forget.

But a new nanomedicine could make this problem a thing of the past.

Under the treatment, a drug contained in millions of tiny capsules is injected into the eyeball. These nanomedicine capsules slowly release their contents over six months, replacing the need for daily eyedrops.

The procedure is done under local anaesthetic, and has been carried out on a pilot group of six patients so far.

One of these patients is Mr Gordon Deans, 83, who has glaucoma in both eyes. The retired teacher signed up for the treatment expecting to feel some initial discomfort.

"But it was absolutely painless," he recalled. "If the doctor didn't tell me it was over, I wouldn't have known."

The treatment was jointly developed by the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri).

Scientists hope it will help prevent the worsening of glaucoma in the elderly.

"Many patients find it difficult to adhere to their doctor's prescribed regime for many reasons, such as forgetfulness, finding it too troublesome, or they lack understanding of the disease," said Associate Professor Tina Wong of the Seri.

She added that about 10 per cent of blindness from glaucoma is directly caused by not sticking to the daily eyedrop routine.

Larger-scale clinical trials are currently being planned, and the treatment will eventually be commercially available.

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