Do you remember a time when you caught sight of something that made your heart pound and your pulse race? Was it seeing your first love across a crowded school gymnasium or was it something as simple as a firework exploding on the Fourth of July? Something that we all love, but often take for granted is our vision. For some people with age-related macular degeneration, seeing the faces of their family and friends or being able to read a conversation heart on a piece of Valentine’s Day candy is impossible. That’s because macular degeneration is a progressive disease, which can lead to severe central vision blind spots in both eyes. February’s AMD Awareness Month is an opportune time to learn more about the onset and treatment of macular degeneration because there are new advancements in technology that can help you or someone you love potentially see something that they love.
The Macular Degeneration Experience
Imagine a lit picture frame holding an image of farm animals behind a fence. At first, a person with macular degeneration might see the entire picture, but the fence posts seem crooked or distorted. Those are early signs of macular degeneration, which affects over 15 million people in the United States (usually older adults).
Working with an ophthalmologist, there are many different treatment approaches for macular degeneration, such as glasses, vitamins, or regular injections. There are also low vision assistive devices that can enlarge and illuminate objects, making them easier to see. However, many people (about 2 million of those with the condition) will stop responding to these methods and their disease will progress to the point where they cannot see the fence or the animals. The picture might be completely blurred, or more likely, the image blocked entirely. It would be as if they tried to look through a lit picture frame with a black or shadowy image. With just fuzzy peripheral vision remaining, a person with progressing (or end-stage) macular degeneration will find it impossible to recognize faces, read, watch TV or complete daily tasks. But there’s hope and it’s not technology of tomorrow, but of today.
Technology Advancements for Treating Macular Degeneration
The CentraSight treatment program uses a tiny, pea-sized telescope implant to improve vision and quality of life. During an out-patient procedure, a corneal surgeon places the device in one-eye (usually the one with worse damage), leaving the other one untouched to preserve peripheral vision, which is essential for balance. The telescope works by enlarging images from the central vision and beaming them to an area of the eye undamaged by the disease. This allows the brain to process what a person is seeing.
The device is nearly impossible to see inside the eye; it looks like a shiny “glimmer” if you get very close. After a short recovery time, the person with the device learns how to use their new vision during regular occupational and low vision rehabilitative therapy. Practicing with a professional and at home, the person relearns how to see stationary and in-motion objects using specially designed exercises.
Available from treatment teams across the country, the Medicare-eligible device is for adults 65 years or older who meet specific eye health criteria and have no prior cataract surgery in the eye selected for implantation. The telescope implant is not a cure for end-stage AMD. As with any medical intervention, potential risks and complications exist with the telescope implant. Possible side effects include decreased vision or vision impairing corneal swelling. Individual results may vary.
What’s Next for Treating Macular Degeneration
Here’s some big news about the telescope implant: Researchers are trying to determine if the telescope implant can be swapped for an intraocular lens which is typically inserted during routine cataract surgery. So if you or a loved one has previous cataract surgery, but is also living with end-stage AMD where central vision is completely blocked, you may be eligible for this study. To learn more about the study call 877-997-4448 or visit: https://www.visioncareinc.net/clinical-trials
People with macular degeneration typically experience increased stress and depression as their vision diminishes.[i] What would it mean to your spouse, parent, or friend with macular degeneration if they could see something they love?
Visit www.CentraSight.comto learn more about the telescope implant.
[i]Bennion, AE, Shaw, RL, Gibson, JM “What do we know about the experience of age related macular degeneration? A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative research?” Social Science & Medicine. 75 (2012) 976-985.