Blindness affects millions of people world-wide. At a personal level, blindness reduces one's independence, complicates the performance of basic day-to-day functions like dressing and preparing food, imposes great challenges in finding employment, and robs a person of the enjoyment of seeing the faces of their loved ones or the beauty in our world. At a societal level, the cost of providing services to the blind is stagerring large, in the billions of dollars each year for the United States government alone.
The causes of blindness can be broadly divided into two categories: 1) optical blindness; and 2) neural blindness. In cases of optical blindness, cloudiness of the eyeball, either in the cornea or the lens (i.e. cataract), prevents clear visual images from reaching the nerve tissue in the back of the eye (known as the retina). Optical blindness is the leading cause of blindness in the non-industrialized world, where poor nutrition and infection cause the cornea to become cloudy. When considered together with cataracts, which also are disproportionately present in non-industrialized countries, these various forms of optical blindness are all treatable and mostly preventable. By contrast, neural blindness cannot be treated. Common causes of neural blindness include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa (RP), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, traumatic injury, strokes, and tumors. The notion of restoring vision to blind patients is one of the Holy Grails of Medicine, equal in complexity to restoring the ability to walk for someone with spinal cord paralysis. Blindness can also be divided into congenital and acquired variants, and like the acquired forms of blindness discussed above, the potential to restore vision to patients with congenital blindness depends upon whether the optical or neural structures of the eye have been injured.
The Boston Retinal Implant Project is dedicated to helping patients with any form of visual impairment. Our "Smart" glasses can be used to help patients with congenital or acquired blindness. Our retinal prosthesis is designed to help patients with certain forms of acquired blindness, specifically "outer retinal blindness" like RP and AMD. No type of man-made device can restore normal vision, but both of the Visus Technology, Inc. devices should enhance the quality-of-life for blind patients, especially by improving their independence for tasks of routine daily living.
We at the Boston Retinal Implant Project want to help our patients and community find the information and resources they need. We’ve pulled together various organizations and websites that describe work in this area. If you are interested in having your organization added to this list, please contact us today.