It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and legal blindness in the over 60s yet so many people have never heard of End-Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). And because so few people know about the condition even fewer are aware there is an effective treatment available.
Now specialist Edinburgh eye surgeon Mr Jonathan Ross is able to fit a tiny telescope inside the eye that can dramatically improve vision without limiting natural eye movement. Laser Vision Scotland is carrying out Implantable Telescope Technology using a device created by CentraSightTM.
The tiny telescope – smaller than a pea – is implanted inside one eye, behind the iris (the coloredcoloured part of the eye). The implant is so small it is barely noticeable.
Mr Ross explained: “This really is a major step forward in the treatment of End Stage AMD. While it does not represent a cure it has been shown in clinical trials to improve vision by several lines on a reading chart, offering suitable patients the chance to read and to see the details of people’s faces again.
“Once fitted, patients participate in a sight rehabilitation programme where they are taught how to use the device – in effect we train their brains to get the most out their damaged retinas.
Because End Stage AMD affects central rather than peripheral vision, someone with the condition will find that if they look directly at an object, the surrounding area will be clear but the actual ‘target’ of the eye will be smudged and hard to distinguish.
Mr Ross said: “We test both eyes and fit the telescope into the stronger eye. Once it is in place that eye does the work of both eyes as far as central vision is concerned while the other eye takes over providing the peripheral vision.
“As a trade-off to improving central vision, the peripheral vision will be partly restricted in the eye with the telescopic implant. However, your vision in the other eye will be unaffected.
“The eyes then learn to work together to provide ‘normal’ vision without the patient really being aware of which eye is doing which job.”
He added: “Laser Vision Scotland at Spire Shawfair Park is the only hospital in Scotland carrying out this procedure and I think it is important to get the message out to End Stage AMD sufferers that this cutting-edge treatment is now available.
A guide price for the surgical implantation of the device is £14,500.
More stories that may be of interest: