Optical implant offers new hope for aging eyes

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on October 16, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 16 at 7:31 PM

AUSTIN — There is a new treatment for a debilitating eye disease that literally installs a "telescope" on the eyeball to help patients see like they used to.

Jane Waterman, 79, says macular degeneration started affecting her eyesight a few years ago. She couldn't even see faces.

"When I was having a conversation, I would have to say, 'Are you talking to me?'" she explained.

Macular degeneration is an aging process that begins to cloud or darken the center part of the vision. Until now, there hasn't been a real treatment.

Waterman is the first in Austin to try CentraSight, a pea-sized "telescope" implanted inside the eyeball. It works like the telephoto lens of a camera.

"Up until this point, macular degeneration patients have had to wear a telescope lens mounted on their glasses," said ophthalmologist Dr. Gina Cottle. "It's much better just to be able to talk to people, move your head and see the image rather than have a mounted telescope, which limits the peripheral vision considerably."

Only on close inspection when Waterman removes her glasses can you see the implant protruding ever so slightly from the pupil of her right eye.

"It isn't overnight that all of sudden you just wake up, and boom it's there," she said.

In fact, doctors say it takes about six months to a year for patients to rehab or perform the mental exercises necessary to achieve optimal results.

"It's just a matter of teaching your brain to use the implant, because it's unlike anything they've ever experienced," Waterman said.

For her, the change has been dramatic in just three months.

"It's wonderful, and it gets more wonderful as the weeks go by," Waterman said.

This surgery isn't for everyone; you have to be 75 or older to get the implant, and you can't have had any previous cataract surgeries.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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