• Macular Degeneration and Low Vision: Making the Most of Low Vision

    Written by: Kierstan Boyd
    Mar. 01, 2016

    With vision rehabilitation, people with low vision can learn new strategies to accomplish their daily activities. With new techniques and devices, people with advanced vision loss can regain their confidence and live independently.

    People with low vision may find a team approach is often best in vision rehabilitation. This team may involve some or all of the following professionals:

    • Ophthalmologist
    • Low-vision specialist
    • Occupational therapist
    • Rehabilitation teacher
    • Orientation and mobility specialist
    • Social worker
    • Counselor

    This rehabilitation process can be a challenging and frustrating period of adjustment — one that requires patience, practice, motivation and the support of your doctor, low-vision specialist, family and friends. The rewards, however, can be great.

    Low-vision aids for macular degeneration

    There are many devices specifically designed to help people with low vision function better. Different devices are available for different tasks. A trained professional can help you understand which device is best for accomplishing your particular needs. Training and practice are also important in order to become skilled at using any device.

    Optical low-vision devices. Optical low-vision devices use lenses to magnify objects, making them easier to see. The lens strength will depend on your vision and the size of the object or print to be seen.

    Magnifying spectacles. Stronger than ordinary glasses. They can be used for near tasks, such as reading, threading a needle, or any activity that requires detailed vision. The printed page or object must be held closer than usual in order to keep things in focus. One advantage of magnifying spectacles is that your hands remain free to hold reading materials or perform tasks.

    Hand magnifiers. Familiar to most people and are available in varying strengths. Reading material is not necessarily held as close to the face as with magnifying spectacles, and some models come with a built-in light. High-quality and high-powered magnifiers are often available only in specialized stores or through vision rehabilitation professionals.

    Stand magnifiers. Rest directly on the reading material, keeping the lens at the proper distance from the page. The ability to rest the magnifier on the page is useful for patients with a tremor or arthritis.

    Telescopes. Used for seeing objects or reading signs that are far away. They can be handheld like a pair of regular binoculars or mounted on a pair of eyeglasses.

    Video magnifiers. Electronic devices that use a camera and television screen to enlarge printed material, pictures, or small objects. They are adjustable and can enhance the material in different ways — for example, by making the print appear darker (increased contrast). The technology is developing rapidly, and electronic devices are becoming smaller, more portable and easier to use. Some can even be used for both distance and near tasks.

    Other low-vision devices and techniques

    There are numerous low vision aids, devices, and techniques to help make everyday activities easier, including:

    • Electronic books, e-book readers and audio books
    • Large-print books, newspapers, magazines, playing cards, and banking checks
    • High-contrast and large number telephones, thermostats, watches, and remote controls; talking watches, timers, books, and medical devices
    • Bold-tipped markers for easy-to-read shopping and phone number lists
    • Computers that can magnify (on screen or on paper) any printed material or picture, or that read aloud what is viewed on screen
    • Sitting closer to the television (this will not damage your eyes)

    Lighting and glare

    Good lighting and glare control are very important for people with low vision. A bright light should always be used when reading and its location should be adjusted for the greatest visibility without glare. Stronger light bulbs in darkly lit areas can make tasks like cooking, dressing, and walking up and down stairs easier. Wearing a hat with a wide brim or tinted wraparound sunglasses can shield your eyes from dazzling and annoying overhead lights or sunlight.

    Additional resources for low vision with macular degeneration

    SmartSight: Making the Most of Remaining Vision (PDF 63K)