New device could hold key to treating AMD

Age-related macular degeneration poses a serious threat to healthy senior living. According to the National Eye Institute, AMD is the leading cause of blindness among the senior population and can take a significant toll on their independence. However, a team of researchers from the United States and Switzerland believe they have developed an innovative contact lens that could help preserve seniors' vision.

The new devices are modeled after visual aids that modify light coming into the patients' eyes. Previously, such aids were not that common because of their cumbersome size. But a team led by experts at University of California San Diego developed a new, smaller lens system that flips between normal and magnified light. This tiny telescope is only a little over 1 millimeter thick. Early trials show that the magnified image provided by the lenses is especially clear and allows seniors to see everything from words on a page to a person's face much easier. 

"In the future, it will hopefully be possible to go after the core of the problem with effective treatments or retinal prosthetics," said co-author Eric Tremblay. "The ideal is really for magnifiers to become unnecessary. Until we get there, however, contact lenses may provide a way to make AMD a little less debilitating."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.8 million Americans have AMD, and an additional 7.3 million are at risk for developing the condition. Although these new lenses may not be commonplace for some time there are some steps older adults can take to maintain their eyesight. In addition to undergoing regular eye exams, experts suggest that seniors talk with their doctors about adding antioxidants such as vitamins A and C to their diet.