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FDA approves device to treat retinal degeneration condition

NEED TO KNOW
  • RP is a progressive retinal degeneration
  • New device allows sight-impaired individuals to detect light and dark
  • Nearly 1 in 4,000 people in the United States are affected by the condition
FDA approves device to treat retinal degeneration condition

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a device that can be used to help treat an eye condition that can eventually lead to blindness called retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

According to WebMD, RP is a progressive retinal degeneration, where cells of the retina deteriorate over time. 

About 1 in 4,000 people in the United States are affected by the condition. But now, an artificial retina known as the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, will be the first implantable device to treat RP. It allows sight-impaired individuals to detect light and dark and is approved for people older than 25 with advanced RP who can see some light.  The Argus, though, does not restore sight completely. 

CNN Health reports that the device, created by Second Sight Medical Products, “consists of a panel of electrodes that are surgically implanted in the eye, and a pair of glasses with an attached camera. The camera sends images to the electrodes, essentially bypassing the damaged retina and tapping into the optic nerve that signals the brain to ‘see’ images.”

Elias Konstantopolous, who used the device in clinical trials, told the New York Times, "Without the system, I wouldn't be able to see anything at all, and if you were in front of me and you moved left and right, I'm not going to realize any of this -- When you have nothing, this is something. It's a lot."

There’s no word yet on whether the device will be able to treat other conditions such as macular degeneration.

This story was originally published on TIME.com.

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