A smaller-than-a-pea sized telescope may be able to restore sight in seniors with macular degeneration, according to a press release from the University of California, Davis.
The first-ever device was inserted into the eye of 89-yeart-old artist, Virginia Bane, back in May of this year. Months of occupational therapy and visual re-training have allowed Bane to start reading, an activity she hadn't been able to do for seven years prior to her surgery. If her vision continues to improve, she even may be able to resume her passion for painting.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) impacts almost 1.8 million Americans and is the primary cause of blindness in adults over 60.
The majority of AMD sufferers have the "dry" form of the disease, which is marked by a gradual blurring of overall sight and blind spots in a person's central field of vision. These spots are caused by the breakdown of the retina—the light-sensing section of the eye responsible for transforming images into electrical signals that can be processed by the brain.
The new device got the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration back in 2010 and remains the only treatment for age-related macular degeneration capable of reversing some of the vision loss experienced by seniors suffering from the disease.
It works by taking in images and projecting them onto healthy sections of a senior's retina.
The mini telescope is not yet widely used—only a handful of clinics are currently equipped to offer the procedure and subsequent therapy. But the success of Bane's surgery has galvanized optometrists who believe that the device could have wide-ranging benefits for seniors suffering from AMD.
While not a painful disease, macular degeneration can negatively impact a senior's quality of life by preventing them from engaging in activities that require acute vision, such as driving, reading and walking without falling.