Implantable Eye Telescope Helping Macular Degeneration Sufferers
There is good news out there for the 8 million sufferers of macular degeneration. In 2010 the FDA approved a new treatment option that may be able to help improve the vision of those with late stage macular degeneration. Basically it is a small implantable telescope that magnifies images before transmitting them to the eye.
What is age related macular degeneration?
Age related macular degeneration or AMD is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. This disease destroys central vision over time and makes it difficult to perform a variety of everyday tasks like reading and driving. The disease slowly destroys the macula which is a part of the retina that is responsible for seeing detail. Often people with severe AMD retain their peripheral vision and lose their central vision completely in the late stages of the disease.
There is currently no cure for macular degeneration. If it is found early some treatments have been successful at slowing the progression of the disease, but these treatments cannot reverse, cure or stop the damage and vision loss from happening.
AMD is common and it is estimated that 8 million people in the United States alone suffer from this disease in one form or another. More than 2 million of these sufferers currently are experiencing significant vision loss.
How does the telescope work?
Recently the FDA approved the use of a small, micro-telescope for patients in the late stages of AMD. This device is called an implantable miniature telescope or IMT. This telescope replaces eye’s natural lens and can help people to see better by providing magnification. It is not a cure for the condition. In fact it is only a good choice for patients in the late stages of macular degeneration. Generally it can be used on patients over 75 years old that have severe vision loss due to AMD.
There are currently 2 models of this telescope available. One can magnify images approximately 2.2 times their actual size and other provides 2.7 time magnification. This telescope magnifies images seen and then reflects them onto a healthy portion of the retina that has not been impacted by the macular degeneration. The telescope is implanted into only one eye. The other eye is used for peripheral vision.
Before the procedure
While this implantable telescope may be able to bring sight to many sufferers from macular degeneration it isn’t an ideal choice for everyone. Before the procedure can be completed training and testing will need to be performed on the patient to ensure that the candidate is a good fit for the procedure. Typically patients use an external telescope to see if the procedure can benefit them. Additionally the eye not receiving the implant will also need to be tested to ensure that it still possesses enough peripheral vision to operate alone.
How effective is the device?
Clinical trials have shown that the IMT can improve vision and bring sight to those with significant vision loss. In one 219 patient study 75% of the participants that received the device had significant vision improvement. These patients went from having severe impairment to having moderate impairment. This can greatly improve the quality of life for those with this device.
What Are the Risks?
This implantable telescope does not come without some level of risk to the eye. The telescope is smaller than the size of a pea but when implanted can result in corneal cell loss and other cornea problems. In the previously mentioned study 10 participants experienced corneal edema which is a swelling of the cornea caused by trapped fluid in the eye. Half of these cases later required a cornea transplant. The FDA is requiring further testing as a part of their approval which will continue to study the success and risks associated with the IMT.
While this device is still new, it does offer hope for those that are affected by age related macular degeneration. As this device is used more frequently we will better understand the risks and benefits associated with this device.
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