Telescopic treatment for wet, dry macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. While treatment is available for the wet form of macular degeneration, there has not been a way to help people with the dry version...until now. Doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital are offering a state-of-the-art procedure that is a real eye-opener.

Just imagine seeing through eyes with a dark blob in your central vision. It would be hard to see much of anything, but that's what people with macular degeneration often have to live with. However, Dr. Rahul Pandit at Houston Methodist Hospital hopes to change that.

"Macular degeneration takes out the center of the retina, which is what you use to see, make out faces, and read," explains Dr. Pandit.   

You can see why it is so important to find a treatment that works. Dr. Pandit is one of the first to offer a huge advancement through a tiny package. 

"This is a very neat device," describes Dr. Pandit. "It's an implantable miniature telescope, which goes into the eye at the time of cataract surgery, with patients who have advanced end-stage macular degeneration." It doesn't matter if someone is dealing with wet or dry macular degeneration, the telescope is made to help both.

Linda Leps says she's delighted about it. 

"I think it's the best thing in the world," says Linda. Her husband Edward is one of the first patients to undergo the procedure. Linda drove him all the way to Houston from their home in Midland in west Texas. 

"I hope he gets where he can read well for the rest of his life," says Linda with a smile. "I hope he's happier with his work. He's determined he's going to work and that's a good thing."

Edward is 80 years "young" and owns his own business, so reading is an important part of his job. 

"I could read, but the reading was going, and I guess about six months ago, the numbers started fading," shares Edward. "Being in the parts business, you always have numbers. Numbers, numbers, numbers. If you don't have numbers, you're up a creek." He hopes the tiny telescope will help in big ways. He has it in one eye to magnify images. Doctors say patients need the other eye for peripheral vision. 

Dr. Pandit says it is a fairly painless procedure. 

"You don't feel it because the iris tissue has nerves in it and constricts really close, but they don't feel it," says Dr. Pandit. "There are a lot of stitches that go in though."  

Even with little pain, it takes months to heal and get the complete results, but Edward's vision did improve after the procedure. 

"He has moved up in one month from 2800 to 2160, which is a remarkable improvement," states Dr. Pandit. "We expect that's going to improve in the near future." states Dr. Pandit. 

A big part of the healing process includes occupational therapy. Edward is learning how to tell his brain to work the telescope. His wife says he has adjusted well. 

"He says he can see TV better, he did have to sit up right on it, within three feet or closer before," says Linda.

Edward says if he does get his eyesight back, he'll never take it for granted again. 

"In high school, I didn't like to read," adds Edward with a laugh. "In college, I didn't like to read, but when I got macular degeneration, I always wanted to read." 

Insurance does pay for the procedure, but it took Edward almost a year to get it approved.

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