Experts are hoping that soon they might be able to teach partially sighted and registered blind people to read and see faces by using the undamaged parts of their eyes.
Macular Disease Society experts point out that the central vision is lost in cases like age-related macular degeneration, but peripheral vision remains intact.
AdvertisementThey say that such patients can be taught to exploit the peripheral vision.
The society has even developed a training scheme for the purpose, and is calling for professionals to adopt the system across the UK.
The macula is a small area of the retina at the back of the eye made up of specialist cells which process central vision as well as the fine detail of what one sees.
Though macular degeneration sufferers rarely go totally blind, they generally cannot drive and have difficulty reading, recognising faces and watching television.
The society, however, insists that studies have shown that such people can be taught to use their peripheral vision to fill in the gaps, using "eccentric viewing" and "steady eye techniques".
According to the experts, when people with central vision loss look directly at an object it may disappear, go faint, blur or distort.
However, they say, when they look above, below or to one side of it, they see it more clearly.
They say that eccentric viewing helps find exactly where to focus their gaze to make their vision better.
"Eccentric viewing works by making the most of vision that remains," the BBC quoted Macular Disease Society chief executive Tom Bremridge as saying.
"Our scheme has transformed lives - helping people to relearn basic skills they thought to have lost for good.
"We have 86 volunteer trainers, all with central vision loss themselves, who have trained more than 310 people in their own communities, and our waiting list of nearly 1,200 people grows every day.
"We are keen that other service providers - social services, private practitioners and primary care trusts - now take up the baton," he added.
Winfried Amoaku, of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said that eccentric viewing could help some patients with central vision loss "cope with everyday tasks such as identifying coins while out shopping, watching television and reading".
"The trouble is, we don't know who will benefit until they have tried the training. All UK patients with central vision loss should have the opportunity to try eccentric viewing techniques to see if they can benefit," he said.
Marek Karas, of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, also hailed the new approach.
"Although there is still ongoing discussion among experts over the best form of training for this type of therapy, we welcome with interest these latest developments," Karas said.