Local News

Duke Has Eye On Restoring Vision Lost To Macular Degeneration

Posted October 28, 2003

— Imagine looking in the mirror and only seeing the outer edges of your face. That is what it is like for people with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people over age 55. A new procedure at Duke is helping patients regain some of what they have lost.

Macular degeneration is caused by leaking blood vessels in the eye which damage the macula. Over time, it destroys central vision.

Doctors have been able to slow progression of the disease, but there was no way to restore vision loss -- until now.

Doctors at Duke Medical Center helped pioneer a breakthrough surgery called

macular translocation


Surgeons lift the macula away from damaged blood vessels and move it to a healthier location in the eye so patients can see again.

"What we're doing is taking people who are falling off the cliff, who are losing that final bit of central vision, and saying here's a chance that we can get it back," said Dr. Cynthia Toth of the Duke Eye Center.

To be eligible for the procedure

, patients must have lost vision in both eyes within the past six months.

The surgery is not a cure, but for patients like Josephine O'Brien, it is the next best thing.

"You don't realize how important your eye sight is until you lose it and you know you're going to lose it and then when you get it back you say, 'Thank God, thank God," O'Brien said.

She said just being able to see again is a dream come true.

There is about a 10 percent chance of the retina detaching during surgery. Duke is one of only a few centers in the world performing the procedure.


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