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Eye Implant Allows Diabetic Patients To See Without Difficult Treatments

PITTSBURGH (CBS) -- Millions of patients have something called Diabetic Macular Edema.

It's a condition that impairs vision.

The standard treatment is routine trips to a doctor for injections. But now, the therapy can be done with a new- age implant.

Robert Brown and his wife share years of happy memories, but seeing them has been a challenge for him.

"Sight is a pretty important thing in life. We don't realize it until there's a threat of losing it," said Brown.

Like many people with diabetes, Robert has vision issues.

"Blood vessels in the retina are leaking, so they cause the retinal tissue to be swollen. Diabetes is the number one cause of blood vessel disease," said Dr. Julia Haller, with Wills Eye Hospital.

Dr. Haller says a standard treatment is anti-inflammatory medications that are routinely injected into the eye after it's numbed with anesthetic drops.

"It's not as painful, it's just you have to get over the idea of it, and it's quick and easy, and its done," Brown said.

The alternative is smaller than a grain of rice. That tiny thread above the grain is an implant called Iluvien.

"The trick is the medication is formulated in an implant that is designed to last longer," said Dr. Haller. "The game changer here is that it lasts for years."

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Robert first had the implant in his left eye and later got one in his right.

"It amazes me that they can do any of this stuff," said Brown.

Now, instead of dreading the regular injections, Robert is relieved to have his vision saved.

He says he's looking toward sharing and seeing more milestones.

While the implant is currently only approved for use in diabetic patients, Dr. Haller thinks the technology will be expanded for use in other eye conditions, like glaucoma.

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