Coming Soon to a Senior Citizen Near You: Bionic Eyes

People suffering from age-related macular degeneration may soon get a chance to be among the first generation with bionic eyes. The FDA recently approved an implantable telescope-like device that will help those suffering from this specific type of vision loss. Like most types of blindness treatments, it’s only approved to treat a very specific condition, but it’s one that affects an estimated 500,000 Americans over the age of 75. But unlike most other futuristic treatments for vision loss, this one is available today.

The device is called an Implantable Miniature Telescope, and it works by expanding images that hit the eyes onto areas of the retina that are unaffected by macular degeneration. After being implanted into the cornea, the implant works to correct the darkening of the middle of the wearer’s field of vision. The device doesn’t actually correct the condition; it simply finds a way to give the user some vision before macular degeneration causes total blindness.

The implant creates a ring-shaped field of vision in the eye, so the other eye is often left untreated so that the patient can sort of cobble together a complete field of vision between both eyes. It takes considerable effort to get used to this new way of seeing, making the implants something of a compromise.

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See more in Cybernetics or under Technology. July, 2010.