Dean Lloyd lost his sight when he was in mid 30s. He suffers from a rare disease that damages the retina.
"Lost all ability to form images in 1989 and after that point and time I had no vision for at least 17 years," he said.
That began to change when he enrolled in a clinical trial and doctors implanted an artificial retina.
The device uses a tiny video camera in the patient's glasses that converts images to electrical impulses. A transmitter in the glasses sends those impulses to electrodes implanted on the back of the damaged eye. The electrodes then stimulate visual centers in the brain.
Lloyd, who once saw nothing, can now see some shapes and can tell the difference between black, white and gray.
"The device is meant for use in patients who have lost all of their vision, don't have any vision at all and trying to restore some of that vision back," said Dr. Eugene de Juan of UCSF.
The artificial retina has been approved for patients in Europe since last year. The company that makes the device estimates 10,000 people here in the U.S. could benefit from it.
Lloyd has had the system for five years and is always trying to find new ways to use it.
"In the last week or two I actually left my cane at home and used it by itself to get to the office two or three blocks, but it takes training and it takes a lot of thought process to make it work," he said.
He hopes the technology becomes more widely available so it can be improved and help more people.
Right now the device costs $100,000.
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