Macular degeneration is the general term used for several progressive diseases of the light-sensitive inner linings of the eyes (retinas). Its effects include loss of central vision and the gradual inability to perform everyday tasks such as reading, driving, perceiving fine detail and recognising faces. A number of low vision aids are available to help affected individuals cope with macular degeneration's harmful effects.
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Optical Low Vision Aids
Optical aids are typically low-cost and are the most commonly prescribed devices for sufferers of macular degeneration. They include hand-held magnifiers, free-standing magnifiers and magnifying screens that can be placed in front of a television set or other object. Magnifiers are also available as glasses, or as clip-ons attached to glasses. Some products come with a light source to enhance visibility. Optical aids are commonly available at pharmacies or medical supply stores and can also be ordered online.
High-powered glasses are commonly used to assist individuals with early-stage macular degeneration. Typically, these are powerful versions of normal reading glasses, and require the user to hold the object being read closer than normal. While some individuals prefer these devices to magnifiers, others dislike the close posture needed to use them.
Electronic Magnfiying Units
Electronic magnifying units are devices that can project enlarged text onto an external viewing screen. They are also called CCTVs. Typically, they come equipped with controls that allow a user to increase or decrease the size of type, as well as adjust the contrast for improved visibility. Depending on the needs of the individual, electronic magnifying units are available in hand-held, portable and stationary forms.
Daily Living Aids
Daily living aids are a large range of commonly available devices designed to make everyday tasks easier for sufferers of macular degeneration. They include large-print books, talking clocks and watches, coin sorters, writing guides and templates, large-print pill boxes and electronic liquid level indicators. Large button telephones and radios are also available.
Computer Software and Reading Machines
Modern computers can be equipped with various types of software to assist vision-impaired individuals. Options here include text-to-speech converters and virtual magnifiers that enlarge onscreen text. Reading machines are free-standing devices that scan and digitally convert printed text, then provide a spoken translation through a built-in speaker.
Typically, there is a significant adjustment time needed to adapt to low vision aids. Individuals who are prescribed a particular device can ask their doctors for detailed instructions on its use. In some cases, low vision specialists are available for this training. The needs of macular degeneration patients change over time, and reassessment of appropriate vision aids may be needed periodically.
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