In cases where standard prescription eyeglasses are not sufficient to help manage vision loss, there are a number of low vision optical devices to choose from. These devices can make a huge difference in the lives of those who struggle with seeing clearly.
Low vision is common among the elderly since eyes change as we get older. Vision loss is also a problem for millions of younger people. If corrections have been made to your vision but is still not 20/20, this is considered low vision.
Low vision optical devices are much like tools that are task-specific. For example, if you are building a house, you need a hammer for certain tasks and a saw for other jobs. A doctor might prescribe a variety of different low vision devices and products so a person can accomplish various tasks. Perhaps they will recommend one or two devices for reading, another device for watching television, and a different device for sewing. Some people with vision loss also have problems with light sensitivity, so they are prescribed sunglasses to reduce glare and protect their eyes from ultraviolet rays.
Low vision devices and equipment to manage vision loss
Low vision loss can include loss of central vision, loss of peripheral vision, blurred vision, or night blindness. Low vision optical devices and products include hand-held magnifiers, strong magnifying reading glasses, loupes, as well as small telescopes. These are different from commercially available devices.
Instead of taking matters into your own hands, it is best to see an eye doctor who can guide you to the right low vision products that can help you. Below is a list of the various devices that a doctor may choose from, including low vision magnifiers. Low vision equipment is classified as either “Near” optical for close-up detailed viewing, or “Distance” optical for spot or short-term viewing and activities that are farther away.
- Stand Magnifiers: Best for reading. When placed on the page, the magnifier automatically focuses for reading. They lay flat on the page, so your arm does not get tired holding it. Unfortunately, they aren’t as portable as some people would like.
- Hand-Held Magnifier: Good for spot reading, including restaurant menus, labels in stores, or dials in your home. They come in various sizes and are usually portable.
- Magnifying Reading Glasses: These allow a person to read for longer periods of time. They provide a wide field of view and are easy to carry with you wherever you go. You do have to hold whatever you are reading very steady when using these glasses.
- Clip-On Loupes: These attach to your existing glasses and are a magnifying device. Weak loupes can be used on both eyes, while stronger loupes can only be used with one eye. They can be convenient. However, stronger loupes can be heavy.
- Telemicroscopic Glasses: Like telescopes, these are for tasks at near distance. They provide a more comfortable working distance when reading or using the computer. The downside is that they have a smaller field of view.
- Hand-Held Telescopes: Called a telescopic monocular, it is used with one eye and has a single eyepiece. It can be used for short viewing periods, including reading a menu, a sign outside, or even a white board in school. They can be kept on a cord around the neck, in a pocket or purse. Some people do find that the image with this device can be dark.
- Spectacle-Mounted Telescopes: These are attached permanently to the lens of a person’s eyeglasses. This is good for those who want to have both hands free. Since depth perception gets distorted while looking through these lenses, walking around while wearing these is discouraged.
- Bioptic Telescopes: This type of spectacle-mounted telescopic glasses are mounted in the upper part of the eyeglass lenses. The placement of the device enables the user to look through the bottom half of the lens while seeing most items at distance, and look through the telescopes at the top of the glasses to view a magnified image. Some states will allow people to use bioptic telescopes for driving.
Living with low vision and vision aids
For those who have just recently developed vision loss, there can be some hesitation or fear. They wonder if visual aid devices are really going to make any difference. Eye doctors will argue that people don’t have to completely lose their independence due to low vision. They maintain that visual aids can make a big difference when it comes to feeling independent.
In one recent study, only 16 percent of low vision patients were able to read. However, when they used visual aid devices, their ability to read suddenly jumped to 94 percent. It is interesting to note that low vision products are responsible for helping low vision sufferers increase their reading speed from 20 words per minute with no vision devices to 72 words per minute with an aid.
According to a national health survey, over 22 million American adults have trouble seeing, even with eyeglasses or contact lenses, or they are blind. These people are encouraged to consider low vision devices and speaking to a mobility specialist who can teach them how to adapt to a life with these devices. With some assistance from eye specialists, family, friends, and low vision equipment, people with vision loss can feel more empowered and fulfilled.