Low vision devices include eyeglasses, but there are many more low vision products available today that can assist patients in living with macular degeneration symptoms. While laser surgery can be used to treat the “wet” variety of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, there is no known cure for the “dry” form of this leading cause of blindness. However, low vision devices can help such a victim in making the most of what eyesight remains.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the central part of the retina, and therefore one’s ability to determine fine details such as print, faces, and images. Essentially, one develops a “hole” in one’s vision; if the subject is looking at an object that appears smaller than this “hole,” the object cannot be seen clearly. Therefore, the purpose of low vision devices is to increase the apparent size of these objects.
Because we use our eyes in different ways in different situations, there is no one solution for addressing macular degeneration symptoms. One patient may require several different low vision products. Bifocal reading glasses are one of the best known and most common low vision devices, but may not be appropriate for all macular degeneration symptoms.
Bioptic glasses for low vision, also known as bioptic telescopes, are low vision devices that actually consist of miniature telescopes mounted atop a pair of regular glasses. Such low vision devices can be adjusted for a wide range of activities that require both distance and near vision. While bioptic glasses for low vision work in the same way (you tilt your head forward slightly), they differ from bifocal reading glasses in that the telescopic lens is not integrated into the primary lens itself.
Other low vision products for age related macular degeneration include such products as the portable digital magnifier, which resembles “virtual reality” goggles and is used in conjunction with a special pair of glasses. One of the most interesting low vision products on the market today consists of a miniature TV camera that actually rests on the surface of whatever the patient is reading, magnifies it, and sends that image electronically, projecting an image on the inner surfaces of eyeglass lenses! Such a system allows the patient’s head to remain in an upright position; no longer is it necessary to tilt one’s head.
Of course, such high-tech vision aids are quite expensive at the present. However, if the history of other technologies such as the PC and the DVD is any indicator, the cost of such low vision devices should come down substantially over the next few years.