Local News

Tiny Implant Brings Relief To Eye Inflammation

Posted March 31, 2006 7:01 a.m. EST

— An implant placed directly in the eye is bringing relief to those who suffer from eye problems.

Beginning 12 years ago, Lucy Thompson could not bear bright sunlight. Her left eye vision was blurry, and she said she preferred dark rooms.

Five years ago, Dr. Glenn Jaffe with the Duke Eye Center began treating Thompson's uveitis, an inflammation that creeps up inside the eye.

"Uveitis, really, is a group of different conditions that can either involve the front of the eye, the middle portion or the back of the eye," Jaffe said.

A severe eye injury can cause Uveitis or it can start with an immune system reaction to an illness. Thompson does not know how her inflammation started.

Jaffe used eye drops, oral steroids, steroid injections and immuno-suppressant drugs.

"They all worked short-term, but none of them worked for very long," Thompson said.

"The ultimate idea would be to have something that could release medicine right where the problem is and avoid causing side effects in the rest of the body," Jaffe said.

Two years ago, Thompson was part of a clinical trial for an implant as small as a grain of rice. The implant is placed through a small incision in the eye. It releases a tiny dose of corticosteroid every day for 2½ to three years.

For Thompson, she said it worked within a week.

"My vision was back. The pain was gone," Thompson said.

Thompson said she used to think about her condition every day, but not any more.

"I have many days where I don't even remember that it's there, which is great. It's completely changed my life," she said.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the current implant for Uveitis to last up to three years. But if approved, newer implants could provide relief for up to 15 years.