Nightly News   |  June 27, 2013

Tiny telescope gives hope to those with macular degeneration

By surgically implanting a miniature telescope in the eye, doctors have successfully magnified objects in patients’ central vision. It’s not a quick fix, and requires intense rehabilitation -- but the results can be dramatic. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as promised earlier, an update on macular degeneration . 15 million americans have it. usually strikes those over 50, and the leading cause of blind innocence this country. tonight, we learn not about a cure, but a new navigation tool that is helping patients get along. from our chief medical correspondent nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: when 77-year-old jim hindman started losing his sight 20 years ago, it was a devastating blow to his independence.

>> giving up my driver's license, that was the -- i think the moment of despair.

>> reporter: jim developed dry age-related macular degeneration . a condition that slowly robs patient of vision from the middle of the eye.

>> one eye can be worse than the other and the progression rate may be different for the two eyes.

>> reporter: for the people who live with macular degeneration , treatments for the dry form were limited to magnifying lenses. those weren't good enough for jim . this dynamic businessman who cofounded jiffy lube , coached college baseball teams, and races thoroughbreds, knew there had to be something. he found it at the wilmer eye institute. there was a miniature telescope in his eye.

>> people can see faces, television, looking out into the world.

>> reporter: the fda-approved device magnifies objects that would normally be seen by central vision and projected to the healthy part of the retina.

>> this is the size of the letters that you can see now.

>> reporter: but it's not a quick fix. it requires intense rehabilitation to retrain the brain, using the telescope irk eye to see detail.

>> it has been miraculous. the change on amy psychological outlook on life is dramatic.

>> reporter: it wribrings what's important back into focus. nancy snyderman , nbc, new york.