UC Davis surgeons treat macular degeneration, restore sight

10:33 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - An elderly woman got her sight back with help from a medical breakthrough.

Surgeons at UC Davis Medical Center successfully placed a new telescope implant in the eye of Virginia Bane, 89, of Pollock Pines. Bane, who was in the end-stage macular degeneration, had her vision restored by the implant.

"Macular degeneration damages the retina and causes a blind spot in a person's central field of vision. The telescopic implant restores vision by projecting images onto an undamaged portion of the retina, which makes it possible for patients to again see people's faces and the details of objects located directly in front of them," UC Davis Health System's Eye Center's Chair of ophthalmology and vision sciences  Prof. Mark Mannis said.

Doctors implanted the telescope into one of Bane's eyes in May 2012. Since the procedure, Bane has undergone recovery therapies that have slowly allowed healing. During the recovery process, Bane gradually recovered her eyesight.

"It's wonderful because I am seeing things that I forgot about," Bane said. "I'm seeing my own family and now I know how they look."

Bane said she also sees colors and shapes that she had not seen for years.

"Virginia's vision will keep getting better over time as she retrains her brain how to see," Society for the Blind in Sacramento Optometrist Richard Van Buskirk said. "She basically uses her left eye with the telescopic implant to see details, such as using a microwave keypad and reading a book."

Buskirk said her untreated right eye then provides peripheral vision that in turn helps her with balance, mobility and walking. Together the two streams of vision become combined and send the brain a single picture.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the device in 2010. It's the only medical option available that restores a portion of vision lost to the advanced form of the disease, which is a leading cause of blindness in older Americans.

UC Davis Health System's Eye Center in collaboration with the Society for the Blind is one of the few in California, and the nation, to offer the innovative procedure. Bane is the first in Northern California and among the first 50 people in the country to receive the implant.

The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but the condition develops as the eye ages.

Candidates for the procedure include those with untreatable end-stage, age-related macular degeneration who are 75 or older and whose disease is stable but have severely impaired vision. Candidates must have some peripheral vision in the eye that will not receive the implant.  

For more information visit the UC Davis eye center website.


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