Hopefully you are not one of the more than 17 million people over age 65 who has either lost or are losing their vision due to age-related macular degeneration, or known simply as AMD, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.
Thanks to the marvels of technology, however, hope – and sight — are being restored for qualified AMD patients – like 82-year-old Dan Dunbar of Costa Mesa, Calif.
Dunbar is only the second person in the United States to have the CentraSight telescope, a surgical device the size of a pea, implanted into his left eye where his vision was worse than in his right eye.
According to the manufacturer, advanced stage AMD patients have a central blind spot or missing area in their vision that neither glasses, drugs or cataract surgery can fix. Everyday activities like reading, watching TV, seeing faces, brushing teeth, applying makeup or preparing meals are difficult and challenging.
To qualify for the implant, patients must:
• Have irreversible, end-stage AMD resulting from either dry or wet AMD.
• No longer be a candidate for drug treatment.
• Never had cataract surgery in the implant eye.
• Meet the age (over 75), vision and cornea health requirements.
The patients’ physicians must assess if the benefits outweigh the risks before deciding if the implant treatment option is a viable one for them. The new medical device and technology do not offer a total cure but will restore vision enough to improve their independence and ability to perform normal activities.
For Dunbar, who loves to ski, dabble in model trains and do woodworking, the surgery is a “miracle”, he said. Although it wasn’t an overnight difference-maker, he appreciates every moment of his new world of sight. In case you are wondering, his driving days are over but his wife, Jean, son and two daughters take him everywhere he needs to go.
“In my case, the surgery took only 90 minutes, but my eyes were dilated for almost three months before I could feel the results of the telescope,” he said.
Meanwhile, the former “rocket scientist” (he helped develop a liquid rocket system that was used by U.S. defense agencies) continues to undergo special eye exercises designed to improve his peripheral and “straight ahead” vision as well as his depth perception. But with the help of a few ordinary vision aids (illuminated magnifying glasses and goggles) and his new bionic eye, he can see things he could never see before.
Dunbar’s vision problems began in 1960 when he became nearsighted in high school, the result of scarring and a bleeding artery in his retina. For 30 years, he suffered from continued vision loss and attacks of blood vessel bleeding. Doctors were unable to diagnose or treat the disorder beyond occasional, often painful cortisone shots.
Through referrals from various local optometrists, including one at Costco, opthomologists and his own veterinarian son, Dunbar learned about the CentraSight telescope implant from a Beverly Hills retina specialist, Dr. David Boyer. After determining that he was a perfect candidate for the procedure, eye surgeon Dr. Samuel Masket performed the surgery in November 2011 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.
“When Dr. Boyer explained the technology, the procedure and the healing process to me, it sounded very reasonable and I put my full trust in the medical team,” he said.
Following the surgery, Dunbar began several weeks of rehabilitation at The Center for Partially Sighted in Culver City. He continues to perform eye exercises at home and returns to the center less frequently.
“I can see faces clearly at more than 20 feet. Being able to watch a person’s face as you to talk to them is a feature that I had forgotten. Now I can not only see their faces and their reactions to my words, I can also see their eyes and where they are looking,” he said.
However, Dunbar is most proud of his ability to return to his normal “blue” level ski slopes. “I found that my telescope gives me excellent distance assessment of the snow on the runs…and it allows me to see other skiers, recognize each daughter and grandsons at 100 feet and to see the snow conditions in front of me,” he added.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t see something I haven’t seen in five years. I feel part of the world again.”
For more information on the telescope implant and to see if you qualify for the CentraSight treatment program, visit www.CentraSight.com or call 1-877—99SIGHT (74448).