Ronald Nastasi learned eight years ago that he had glaucoma – a common eye condition and one of the leading causes of blindness. Although his condition was mild at that time, he knew that if he didn’t start taking proper care of his eyes, the disease had the potential to become severe.
“This could sneak up on you, and then usually it's too late—the damage is done. There won't be any symptoms until you actually have irreversible damage,” Nastasi said.
At this point, Nastasi’s eye doctor recommended he see a glaucoma specialist, worried he may start losing his vision. Nastasi wanted to stay local, and after doing extensive research, he chose to see Jonathan M. Skarie, MD, PhD at Ohio Eye Associates. Skarie is a local ophthalmologist and the only fellowship trained glaucoma specialist in the Mansfield area.
Skarie met with Nastasi for an evaluation. He confirmed Nastasi’s right eye had a very elevated eye pressure and noted signs of optic nerve damage. At this point they discussed glaucoma surgery. Skarie gave Nastasi the option of having XEN Gel Stent surgery – a recently developed surgical implant designed to lower eye pressure in glaucoma patients.
“(XEN Gel) doesn't require stitches in the eye like the old kind where they put these drains and tubing in or made incisions in your eyes. This is very minimal, and that's why (eye doctors) really like it. It's not much risk to the eye,” Nastasi said.
Skarie, who’s been with Ohio Eye Associates since 2017, is a cataract and glaucoma surgeon. He specializes in all aspects of glaucoma medical, laser and surgical care, in addition to managing complex cataracts. He is trained in the latest advances in glaucoma surgical options, including Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) techniques, such as the XEN Gel Stent.
“MIGS options have really changed the way we approach glaucoma management. In the past, the only surgical options for glaucoma were much more invasive and high risk surgeries that were often uncomfortable for the patient. While these types of surgeries are still required in certain cases, we now have a wide range of options that are safer, offer easier recovery and are effective across a broad range of glaucoma types and severity,” Skarie said.
Glaucoma becomes more common with age, though there are rare, aggressive forms that occur in younger adults and even children. Fortunately, these more aggressive types of glaucoma are often picked up during childhood vision screens or eye care visits for glasses, according to Skarie.
The biggest challenge of glaucoma is that the vast majority of cases are asymptomatic until late in disease, when severe damage has already occurred. Glaucoma is usually only identified during an eye exam. Per Skarie, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends regular visits to the eye doctor starting at age 40, even if you have no known eye or medical problems.
“A comprehensive, dilated eye exam should identify if you have glaucoma or if you are at high risk of developing it. If it is caught early, it can usually be easily managed and vision loss can be avoided,” Skarie said.
Nastasi recently underwent the minimally invasive surgery and sailed through it. Skarie will continue to monitor his condition throughout the postoperative period. He only needed a week of limitations on activities, but he felt “back to normal” by the next day.
Nastasi is pleased with Skarie's work and the level of care he’s given throughout.
“Dr. Skarie explained (the surgery) all the way through to me and I have follow up instructions, which were heavily detailed,” Nastasi said. “I'm very confident in the choice (Skarie) made with my eyes.”