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Smallest human implant could help fight blindnessMillions of Americans are living with glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness when left untreated. Now more surgeons are treating patients with the iStent, the smallest implantable device approved for the human body. CNET's Kara Tsuboi reports.
Camille Maertz has been living with glaucoma for nearly two decades. The disease itself is painless, but treating it with the traditional therapy of eye drops, sometimes a dozen or more a day, is anything but. They would either burn or turn my eyes red, and inflamed, and, and, so we keep switching. It turns out Mertz was a perfect candidate to receive an eye stint made by Glaukos, a tiny implant to release the pressure from the eye. And this can be done, you know, in conjunction with cataract surgery. The recovery time from the surgery is very quick. The eye stint is the size of a number on a penny, and acts as a release valve to improve drainage. The eye's like a kitchen sink, and in glaucoma, there's a blockage at the drain. So that the pressure in the eye can build up because the fluid has no place to go. When implanted, patients can't feel the millimeter-long device nor is it visible unless under a special microscope. It also can eliminate the need for eye drops completely. And there it is. I can see. I can drive. I can read. I haven't had any problems at all. I don't even know the stents are in there. There are a number of different stents already on the market and even more in development. So we're be, we'll be able to offer in a few years a number of these technologies and devices to our patients with early glaucoma. [LAUGH] Just so patients like Mertz can focus on enjoying their lives. In San Francisco I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNet.com. [LAUGH] For CBS News.