As Marian Orr’s vision became progressively worse, the 80-year-old grandmother could no longer recognize her friends and family. “I couldn’t see their faces, just a halo around their face,” says Orr. “My dad and my uncle had both lost their sight and they missed out on so much. I didn’t want to go through that.”

Orr was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a disease that affects more than 10 million Americans and is the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older. Macular degeneration affects the center of the retina, called the macula, which is especially important for reading, watching television, and recognizing faces.

Fortunately, Orr qualified for a then-experimental telescope implant, developed by VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies and performed by specially trained ophthalmic surgeons as an outpatient procedure.

The pea-sized implant is one of the few options available for people with end-stage macular degeneration. It consists of two lenses within a small glass tube and is implanted in only one eye which patients use for detailed vision. The untreated eye is used for peripheral vision.

First, doctors remove the cataract from the eye. Next, the telescope is put into the support structure of the eye’s lens, called the lens capsule, so it sits where the cataract was. Once inside the eye, the telescope works like a fixed telephoto lens, acting in conjunction with the cornea to project a magnified image over a large part of the retina.

Orr says she experienced no pain following the two-hour surgical procedure in her doctor’s office. She wore a patch over the untreated eye to strengthen the one with the telescope. “Now, I can walk into a room and see the person’s whole face,” she says. “I can read books–small and large print. The only thing I can’t do is drive and, considering the price of gas, that’s not a handicap!”

Orr calls the telescope implant nothing short of a miracle. She hopes it becomes widely available soon because she has a lot of friends who could benefit from the procedure. Those friends probably won’t have to wait long. The FDA approved the device in July.


Visit VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies website to learn more about how the telescope implant works and whether it’s right for you or a family member.  The NIH offers facts about macular degeneration. For more on symptoms, treatment and prevention, visit the Mayo Clinic website or MedlinePlus. To find an eye doctor in your area, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.