A new breakthrough surgery could help people living with macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is very common, with over 1.75 million individuals in the US living with the condition, and is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the country. This new surgery, called iolAMD, can help patients potentially regain their ability to see and perform certain tasks like reading – or even driving – enabling people to regain their independence and live their lives to the fullest.
To learn how this surgery works, we need to understand a little bit about macular degeneration. AMD is unlike other eye conditions like glaucoma, which typically cause vision loss to begin at the periphery and develop inwards toward an individual’s central vision. Instead, macular degeneration causes vision loss in the central area of vision only. This kind of vision loss can make reading frustrating, and make driving or recognizing faces impossible.
Put simply, macular degeneration is a deterioration of the back of your eye (your retina) – specifically, the middle region needed for central vision (your macula). For patients living with AMD, their periphery is often unaffected and remains crystal clear. So if one part of your eye is degenerating, and another part of your eye is perfectly healthy, can’t we just somehow rely on the healthy part? That’s exactly what they did, and that’s where iolAMD comes in.
When we get cataract surgery, the doctor simply swaps out the worn, cloudy lens in your eye for a specially-designed artificial one, clearing up your vision essentially instantly. This procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Now, scientists have developed a new set of lenses to be placed in the same manner that can treat AMD.
The term “iol” stands for “intraocular lens,” and that’s the type of lens swapped out during cataract surgery. iolAMD is actually a set of two lenses that use highly-specialized geometry and light-bending techniques to redirect the light as it enters your eyes. These lenses very slightly magnify the images your eye receives, as well as divert the light away from the damaged macula and instead onto the healthy retina.
The result is dramatic: these lenses essentially “shift” the unhealthy part of your vision away from your central focus and off toward the periphery. In other words, your central vision is significantly restored.
Thanks to the way iolAMD works, it can offer significant benefits over existing AMD lenses. First, it can be placed in both eyes, while some other treatments can only be placed in one. Next, the special design of the lenses requires just a tiny incision, allowing doctors to place these lenses easily, even during cataract surgery. This is a major improvement over previous treatment options requiring larger incisions, stitches, and more involved surgeries. For patients, this means less downtime, higher success rates, and better, faster recovery.
Because this new surgical procedure lets the healthy part of the back of your eye essentially “take over” for the unhealthy part, this new surgical procedure isn’t just useful for those living with AMD. It can also treat those with diabetic maculopathy and macular holes as well, which if left untreated, may result in similar visual loss and distortion as AMD.
As with all conditions and surgical procedures, each individual case is different. Your doctor will help you decide if iolAMD is right for you, as well as explain risks, benefits, and expectations. In addition, just like with any eye surgery, your brain will need time to adjust to the new information
and get used to processing images in a new way. Because of this, it can take up to two months to experience the full effects of iolAMD.