London Bound – Telescope Implant Patient Looking Forward to Seeing the Sights

By Dr. Edward Paul, OD, PhD
Paul Vision Institute
Wilmington, NC

Originally from London, Valerie R., 77, has long resided in the beach community of Wilmington, N.C. with her two dogs. Her daughter, Jennifer, lives with her. Over time, Valerie began to lose her central, straight-ahead vision due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). She became depressed because she could no longer see the faces of her loved ones, read, or knit complicated garments, which is a hobby she’s enjoyed since she was three years old. She avoided traveling to London, where her extended family still lives, because she thought it would be hard to cope with not being able to see her family or favorite places – and having to rely on her memory to “see” the sights. After being evaluated by her low vision specialist and an eye surgeon, Valerie elected to undergo a procedure to receive a tiny telescope implanted in her eye.

The telescope implant is the only FDA-approved surgical treatment for the most advanced form of macular degeneration and is intended for people like Valerie: those who are at least 65 years old with end stage macular degeneration and for whom other treatments such as drug injections or laser therapy will no longer help.

The size of a pea, the telescope implant is inserted into one-eye only (monocularly) during an out-patient procedure. The other eye is left “as is” to preserve peripheral vision which is subsequently lost in the operated eye, but vital for maintaining balance and orientation. Following surgery and a few weeks of recuperation, patients undergo occupational training with low vision specialists that will prescribe new glasses for near and far and design exercises to help each patient learn to understand their new vision. There are different techniques to help people master seeing in static (sitting still) and dynamic (moving around) situations.

The best candidates for the telescope implant procedure are motivated – they practice the exercises and learn to use their new vision. But it is important to realize that the restored vision will not be like what they might remember having at the age of 30. The telescope implant works by projecting and enlarging images seen in straight-ahead vision on to healthy areas of the retina not damaged by macular degeneration. A study that followed patients over five years found that there was a clinically significant gain in visual acuity (mean 3.2 lines of gain on visual charts) at two years after telescope implantation and most of the gain in visual acuity was maintained (mean 2.4 line improvement) at five years after telescope implantation.  Additionally, patients also reported improved quality of life, as assessed by the National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire-25 (a commonly used patient survey on the impact of eye disease).

Are you or a loved one a candidate for the telescope implant?

Potential candidates (you or a loved one) need to consider the following:

  • Are you 65 years of age or older?
  • Do you have AMD in both eyes?
  • Does it affect your ability to read or recognize facial expressions?

The telescope implant is an integral part of the CentraSight treatment program; a new program that has been designed to help patients see the things that are important to them, regain independence and re-engage in everyday activities. The program uses a multispecialty provider team approach and has been created to help patients follow the necessary steps for proper diagnosis, surgical evaluation and postoperative care. The cost for the telescope implant and visits associated with the treatment program are Medicare eligible in all 50 states.

Following surgery, Valerie worked with her low vision specialists to learn how to see again. In remarking on her improved vision, Valerie has said, “It turned my life around!” She’s resumed knitting and can see the faces of her beloved dogs. Further, Valerie’s vision improved so much that she and her daughter will visit London this coming spring to see her old neighborhood, friends and family. She’s excited that she’ll be able to participate in the visit fully and not miss any of the sights.

If you think that you or a loved one are a possible candidate for the telescope implant, I urge you to speak with your optometrist or ophthalmologist for an evaluation. 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.

Want to learn more? Let us help you.

Please call Lynn Rinaldi,
SupportSight program manager,
at 1-866-462-2852 or email lynn@mvrf.org.