Eastern Shore Glaucoma Specialist Offering New Treatment for Disease

Ophthalmologist Jason Yonker of Chesapeake Eye Associates now performs the outpatient procedure at Atlantic General Hospital

His patients have been asking if he would perform the procedure for the past year, but glaucoma specialist Dr. Jason Yonker wanted to wait until more research was complete on canaloplasty, the new alternative to traditional glaucoma surgery. Now, their wait is over.

Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, is most commonly caused by increased pressure in the eye resulting from improper drainage of fluid from the eyeball. Those with the disease first experience a loss of peripheral vision and, if left untreated, eventual loss of all eyesight as pressure is placed on the optic nerve. This form of glaucoma, called open angle glaucoma, is controlled with medication and laser treatments.

Only if and when the disease progresses to a more dire state is it treated surgically with a trabeculectomy because of the risk and discomfort involved with the procedure.

Earlier results indicated – and the three-year study completed in April has confirmed – that canaloplasty can be a more desirable alternative, with quicker healing rates, greater success, less risk of infection, and a reduced need for intraocular eye pressure-reducing medication. As a result, it can also be offered at an earlier point in the disease process.

With canaloplasty, the top skin of the eye is cut and held back to allow a catheter equipped with a miniature LED lamp and a suturing device to be threaded into the Schlemm’s canal, the drainage system that runs through the cornea. (In a healthy eye, fluid is released through this canal to maintain optimum eye pressure. Glaucoma results when the canal is blocked for some reason and that fluid is prevented from exiting.) Sutures are then placed to hold the Schlemm’s canal open, effectively widening the eye’s drainage system.

In contrast, the traditional surgery, which involves making an incision through the cornea, creates an entirely new drain in the eye. Anti-scarring medication is required after surgery and the procedure may need to be repeated if the drain heals closed.

Certain risks still remain with the new procedure, including a sudden drop in eye pressure due to the fluid leaving the eye too quickly. But, that can happen with the traditional surgery as well. Also, “the suture could theoretically weaken over time, but it has been shown in other established procedures to be very stable over the long term when used in eye surgery, so that is not likely,” said Dr. Yonker. “With less potential risk, I am hoping that this procedure will help preserve vision while limiting potential complications for my patients.”

Dr. Yonker is currently offering canaloplasty to patients who are good candidates for the procedure. To make an appointment with Dr. Yonker, call Chesapeake Eye Associates at 410-641-1744.

About Jason Yonker, MD
Jason M. Yonker, MD, is an ophthalmologist at Chesapeake Eye Center and a member of the medical staff at Atlantic General Hospital, providing ophthalmic care and surgical services to patients. Dr. Yonker is a graduate of West Virginia University School of Medicine and completed his residency and a fellowship in glaucoma and cataract surgery at Wayne State University/Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit, MI. He has been invited to several conferences as a guest lecturer and has published several articles. Before moving to the Shore, Dr. Yonker served as an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Kresge Eye Institute, where he taught doctors in training the latest cataract and glaucoma surgical techniques.
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