EYEDROPS usually have to be applied daily for people with glaucoma, a disease which damages the optic nerves and can cause blindness. Yet this is something that the elderly, who make up the bulk of patients, tend to overlook.

A new nanomedicine could solve this problem. In a new procedure expected to be offered commercially in future, glaucoma medicine in the form of millions of tiny capsules is injected into the eyeball.

These capsules slowly release their contents over six months, replacing the need for daily eyedrops that help relieve pressure on the optic nerve. Performed under local anaesthetic, the procedure has so far been carried out on a trial group of six patients, doctors told reporters on Tuesday.

One of the patients is retired teacher Gordon Deans, 83, who has glaucoma in both eyes. He had expected 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 medicine was jointly developed by the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Eye Research Institute.

Clinical trials on a larger scale are on the cards before the treatment is offered commercially. Scientists hope it will help prevent the worsening of glaucoma among the elderly here.

Many patients forget to apply eyedrops regularly or find it “too troublesome” to do so, said Associate Professor Tina Wong of the eye research institute.

“It is estimated that at least 10 per cent of blindness from glaucoma is directly caused by poor patient adherence to their prescribed medications,” she said.