A pioneering eye patch improves vision in people with severe age-related sight loss, new research suggests.
When implanted at the back of the eye of people suffering from dry macular degeneration, all experienced improved or stabilised vision, a US study found.
One woman, aged 69, was even able to read 24 letters on an eye chart after having the device fitted, compared to just seven before, the research adds.
The device involves placing a wafer-thin patch coated with healthy embryonic retinal cells on the tissue near the optic nerve, which sends impulses to the brain where images are formed.
Dry macular degeneration affects around 1.75 million people in the US alone and causes reduced central vision due to thinning of the part of the retina responsible for people’s direct line of sight.
A pioneering eye patch improves vision in people with severe age-related sight loss (stock)
WHY IS DRY MACULAR DEGENERATION?
Dry macular degeneration is a common eye disorder among people over 65.
It causes blurred or reduced central vision due to thinning of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for people’s direct line of sight.
More than 1.75 million people suffer in the US. The condition’s UK prevalence is unclear.
The wet form of the disorder occurs due to leaking blood vessels under the retina and causes more sudden vision loss than the dry form.
Dry macular degeneration develops gradually, affecting people’s ability to do things, such as read, drive and recognise faces.
Symptoms are usually painless and include:
- Visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing bent
- Reduced central vision
- Need for brighter lights
- Difficulty adapting to low-level lights
- Blurred printed words
- Reduced colour brightness
- Difficulty recognising faces
Dry macular degeneration usually affects both eyes eventually.
It rarely causes blindness due to peripheral vision being unaffected.
The cause is unclear and may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as smoking.
It can be prevented via routine eye exams, managing conditions such as high blood pressure, not smoking and eating well.
There is no cure.
Treatment may include meeting with a low-vision rehabilitation specialist or surgery to implant telescopic lenses.
Source: Mayo Clinic
All four patients’ vision improved
The researchers, from the University of Southern California, placed the patch, measuring 6x4mm, on the retinas of four people with advanced dry macular degeneration.
Each of the participants only had one eye tested, while the other served as a control.
One year on, the patch stabilised the disease in all of the participants’ treated eyes, while those that had not received the patch continued to deteriorate.
Two of the participants were better able to maintain their vision on a single object a year after the implant was fitted.
The researchers believe their findings suggest the patch improves the vision of people with severe age-related dry macular degeneration, at least in the short term.
They plan to conduct a larger trial that tests the device on patients at an earlier stage of the disease.
The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Eating plenty of salmon and mackerel protects against sight loss
This comes after research released last December suggested eating plenty of salmon, sardines and mackerel may protect against sight loss.
A chemical in oily fish boosts the survival of cells that are critical to vision, protecting against age-related sight decline, a study by Louisiana State University found.
Omega-3 oils ‘precondition’ cells in the eye to withstand ‘stress’, such as a loss of blood supply, according to researchers.
In laboratory tests, human eye cells exposed to constant light withstand damage if they are supplemented with such oils, the research adds.
Although fish oil contains omega-6 AA, which is inflammatory and could therefore cause damage, the fatty acid omega-3 DHA is thought to alter the former substance’s effects.