Virginia researchers have successfully used a new tool on a patient with a vision-stealing disorder. They implanted a telescope in the eye to treat macular degeneration.
According to ScienceDaily, doctors at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center used a telescope implant to provide central vision to a patient suffering from end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The National Eye Institute says AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among older adults. There are two types: dry and wet macular degeneration. The dry form sometimes progresses into the more serious wet AMD.
Most AMD develops slowly and destroys the macula in the center of the eye. While patients don't lose all their sight, many eventually experience a significant loss of central vision in one or both eyes. Over time, it becomes harder to drive, write, do most close work, or read.
AMD.org estimates that as many as 15 million Americans have AMD. Around 200,000 patients receive an AMD diagnosis each year.
A majority have dry macular degeneration, the far more common form. It has three stages -- early, intermediate, and advanced -- and occurs when cells in the macula sensitive to light start breaking down. Patients can eventually experience blurring or a "blob" in their central vision.
Experts consider the wet form advanced AMD. It develops when blood vessels under the macula leak blood and fluid. Damage can quickly occur.
The surgeon who implanted the telescope was William H. Benson, M.D. A cornea specialist, he also chairs the Department of Ophthalmology at the VCU School of Medicine.
The implant is smaller than a pea. It utilizes micro-optical technology to enlarge objects that a sufferer with advanced AMD could not see. The device projects images onto a healthy part of the retina. The patient is able to see them as if they appeared in the central vision field.
Like many people with AMD, I didn't know I had any symptoms when I received my diagnosis. Two doctors had noted that I had the dry form in medical records, but had never told me. Only when I saw one of them two years later for another problem was AMD mentioned.
There is no medication to reverse the effects of dry AMD. However, I quickly started on a supplement recommended by my ophthalmologist to help slow any loss of vision. Five years later, I have an exam every six months to detect changes in the macula in both eyes.
Hopefully, I will never reach the most advanced stage of AMD. If I had this condition in only one eye, it would be easier to imagine surgery for an implant if it were affordable. Perhaps I'm a bit squeamish or haven't lost enough vision, but the idea of implanting a telescope to treat macular degeneration feels uncomfortably unnatural.source