Telescope for Macular Degeneration?
FDA Eyes Implantable Miniature Telescope When All Else Fails to Treat Macular Degeneration
April 23, 2008 -- Could an implantable miniature telescope give macular degeneration patients a vision boost when they run out of other options? An FDA advisory panel takes up that question later this week.
Macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60, slowly steals central vision, which is needed for tasks such as reading and driving. Central vision gradually goes from being a little fuzzy to near blindness.
The Implantable Miniature Telescope (IMT), made by VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies of Saratoga, Calif., is the first of its kind. It's 4 millimeters long and designed for people with central vision loss in both eyes from end-stage age-related macular degeneration.
"End-stage" means that "there's nothing we can do that will medically improve that eye," says ophthalmologist Bill Lloyd, MD, who writes WebMD's Eye on Vision blog.
Good candidates for the telescope have severely impaired vision but aren't totally blind, Lloyd says. Patients can only get the telescope in one eye, because they need their other eye for peripheral vision, which the telescope reduces.
In the telescope's clinical trial, patients' vision improved and so did their quality of life. "It's a promising device," Lloyd says.
Kathryn Colby, MD, PhD, director of joint clinical research at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, agrees. "I think it's a very good device for people for whom there are no other options," says Colby, who participated in the telescope's clinical trial. "I have probably 60 patients on a waiting list that are waiting for the FDA to make its decision."
But the telescope isn't a cure -- and it does have risks. "It doesn't give people back their 20-year-old eyes which are normal in every other way. So it's very important for patients to have realistic expectations going into this," Colby says.