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Devices for Macular Degeneration

Vision loss is a part of living with macular degeneration. However, there are therapies to help you live with impaired vision, as well as devices that can help you see better, allowing you to maintain your independence and quality of life.

Sophisticated visual impairment devices

Basic assistive devices like handheld magnifiers and electronic tablets may help with some near tasks, however there are also more sophisticated devices, such as an implantable miniature telescope (IMT) specifically for AMD and eSight electronic glasses. These devices aren’t right for everyone, but it might be worth asking your doctor about them if they’re something you’re interested in.

Implantable miniature telescope (IMT)

Obtaining an implantable miniature telescope (IMT) requires cataract surgery, where the natural lens of the eye is removed. However, instead of receiving the regular plastic lens that is typically inserted after cataract surgery, a miniature telescope can be inserted instead. The actual IMT device itself is approximately the size of a pea.1 Light entering the eye is magnified by the telescope, projecting a larger image onto the retina.1

What does an IMT do?

The macular damage from AMD is not repaired by this surgery; it merely helps the healthy cells compensate for the damage that’s been done. So if you typically see black spots where people’s faces are with your AMD, the IMT might allow you to see more of the person’s face, and only a part of the face will be blacked out.

IMT requirements

There are strict guidelines to determine if you’re a candidate for IMT. These include1:

  • You have irreversible, end-stage AMD in both eyes, either dry or wet AMD
  • Other treatments (including drug therapy) are not effective
  • You have not had cataract surgery in the eye that will be operated on
  • You are at least 65 years old and have vision between 20/160 and 20/800

If you’re interested in IMT, your eye doctor can tell you more about whether you’re a candidate for the surgery, and the possible risks and benefits to your eye health. Before you can be approved, you will have testing to see whether the surgery is likely to be effective.

eSight electronic glasses

eSight electronic glasses can help people with impaired vision see better. The glasses require some vision to be useful, so those who have no functional vision will likely not experience good results with the eSight glasses.

eSight glasses features

They are worn just like a pair of regular glasses but features a built-in high-definition, high-speed camera.

  • Algorithms optimize and enhance this camera footage, which is then shown on two screens near your eye in real time.2
  • There is also a trackpad that you hold, which allows you to change zoom and focus, among other things.
  • The glasses have a battery life of 7-8 hours.
  • If you have light sensitivity, the glasses can be equipped with an accessory.

eSight glasses cost

The glasses are expensive – nearly $10,000.00 – and are not accessible to many people because of cost.2 Insurance does not cover the glasses, but the company does offer payment plans. According to the eSight website, several people have independently petitioned their insurance companies and obtained coverage to purchase the glasses, but this is not guaranteed.

If you are interested in the eSight glasses, talk with your eye doctor about whether you’re a candidate and what their thoughts are on the device.

Other assistive devices

There are many assistive devices available for those with low vision and other degrees of vision loss from mscular degeneration – these are just a couple options. Talk with your eye doctor about the range of devices available to help optimize your vision, and what might fit best with your lifestyle.

Written by Jaime R. Herndon | Reviewed September 2019
  1. Duffy M. The Implantable Miniature Telescope (IMT) for End-Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration. 2018. http://library.nymc.edu/informatics/amastyle.cfm. Accessed November 16, 2018.
  2. eSight. https://www.esighteyewear.com/ n.d. Accessed November 16, 2018.