Posts Tagged ‘macular degeneration’

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by lowvision

The 2014 North American cold wave has certainly left its mark on the country. Record low temperatures and headlining snowstorms have made it miserable – and dangerous – to be outside. And for those with low vision, icy conditions can be particularly challenging while walking or driving.

Low vision issues like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration often impact adults’ visual acuity, including contrast sensitivity and depth perception. When combined with icy weather, vision problems can lead to serious falls and life-threatening injury.

To prevent such occurrences, take extra care to assess your environment and stay indoors during precipitation like freezing rain and snow. Be sure to utilize various low vision devices and aides to maximize your remaining vision and restore some form of visual perception. Consider the following products to help you with vision tasks while indoors and out:

• Telescopes
• Hand held magnifiers
• Stand magnifiers
• Spectacle magnifiers
• All terrain canes
• Weather alert radios
• Low vision window pane thermometers

And don’t forget – beyond causing falls, ice and snow are dangerous to your eyes! Fresh snow reflects 85% of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, so shoveling snow or simply looking at it while walking can increase your UV exposure.

UV radiation can progress long-term vision problems like cataracts and macular degeneration, and can cause temporary but painful snow blindness in the winter. Fortunately, UV eye damage can be prevented by simply wearing UV-protective sunglasses. For adults with low vision, talk with your eye doctor about your prescription sunglass options.

Remember, taking extra eye health precautions in the winter can help you avoid falls and other weather-related injury.

How do you stay eye safe during the winter? Use these hashtags on Twitter and Facebook to tell us!

#polarvortex2014 #lowvision #UVrays #eyeseeyou

The 4 “A”s of Low Vision: Access, Awareness, Availability, Acceptance

Posted on: July 18th, 2013 by lowvision

It’s no secret that aging and changes in vision are related to one another. Although eye disorders and loss of vision can affect people throughout their lives, the prevalence of vision loss is likely to grow as you age. A recent report from Prevent Blindness America puts the economic burden of eye disorders and vision loss in the U.S. at $139 billion. That’s why access to low vision resources—such as low vision devices and vision rehabilitation services—is so important to individuals 60+ who are struggling to see and to maintain an independent lifestyle.

I recently heard Dr. Michael Fischer, Chief of Optometry Service at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, speak at Prevent Blindness’ Washington, DC Focus on Eye Health Summit. In addition to offering background on the problem of low vision in the U.S., he offered key points that he calls the “Four A’s of Low Vision: Access, Awareness, Availability and Acceptance.”

A few facts first: The U.S. has an aging population. By the year 2020, there will be close to 90 million people in the U.S. 65 years of age or older.

  • Age-related macular degeneration is the #1 cause of vision impairment in people 55+ in U.S.;
  • Diabetic retinopathy is the #1 cause of vision impairment in the working age U.S. population
    • 25.8M people in the U.S. have diabetes and another estimated 7M are undiagnosed;
    • Of people 40+, 2.9M have some degree of vision impairment, not including blindness.

Recognizing the symptoms of low vision early and taking the proper actions may help preserve sight and in some cases, can lessen the advance of low vision.

Dr. Fischer highlighted four reasons specifically that are challenges for low vision sufferers.

Access—Low vision progresses slowly. The ultimate goal for low vision patients and their doctors is to detect low vision early in order to maintain remaining sight and prevent further deterioration in vision. Scheduling a regular visit to an eye care provider is an important step in maintaining eye health. If you know someone who needs transportation to or from the eye exam, help him/her find a way to get there. Second, who’s going to pay/cover services? Medicare doesn’t cover all vision care; however, it does cover certain types of therapy including vision rehabilitation. Having access to an eye care provider or vision rehabilitation specialist will help restore and maintain the independence that is so important to older individuals today.

Awareness— Eye care providers don’t always spend time on a low vision assessment. It is important for individuals to explain any vision changes to their eye care provider and to ask for a low vision assessment if their symptoms are representative of low vision. Look out for elderly family, friends and neighbors who might be experiencing some of the signs of low vision and help them know that low vision exams exist and can help them with their vision concerns.

Availability— Not every eye care provider is a low vision specialist. Eye care providers will be able to recognize low vision symptoms, and if they are not able to do an assessment, they should be able to refer their patients to a specialist. Signs of low vision are broader than presbyopia (the need for reading glasses in order to focus on near objects) and include:

  • Areas of blurred or distorted vision or spots and blotches in vision
  • Shadowed or darkened field of view or noticeable loss of peripheral vision
  • A gradual loss of central vision
  • Cloudy and blurred vision or exaggerated “halos” around bright lights
  • Blind spots in your field of view

Acceptance–It is difficult for a person of any age to admit that his or her vision is deteriorating. Eye patients are often looking for a “cure” for their low vision—such as a stronger glasses prescription or a medical solution. Low vision patients need the appropriate counsel and the comfort of knowing that with vision rehabilitation and low vision devices, most people can remain independent for many years.

To get started on the search for a low vision specialist, start here on by clicking on ‘Find a Low Vision Specialist.’


Sunglasses and Macular Degeneration

Posted on: June 21st, 2013 by lowvision

Summer is underway, and that means people are starting to think about sunglasses and UV (although really, you should think about it year-round). UV radiation can cause damage to the cells of the retina, and too much light can actually reduce your ability to see properly, especially in sunlight. Sunglasses protect the cells of the macula from being damaged by UV radiation. But darker does not mean better. The darkness of sunglasses does not protect the eyes from the ultraviolet radiation. What the darkness does is reduce eye discomfort for those who are very sensitive to the bright light. UV coatings are applied to lenses and are colorless—in fact, standard glasses and even goggles very often have UV protection. The tint of sunglasses provides comfort; the UV coating provides the protection.

The amount of light needed by each individual to see differs, and the use of sunglasses that are too dark can actually contribute to unnecessary distraction and falls. Many people with macular degeneration have not been prescribed specialized sunglasses by their eye doctors. This means that their vision is not being used to its greatest potential AND their eyes are not as protected as thy should be.

When in doubt, ask, right? To find out about lens options and tints available for your specific low vision situation, ask your eye care professional. Prescription sunwear is available in all different shapes, sizes, and fashions. If prescription sunwear is not for you, there are even sunglasses that you can fit over your regular eyeglasses.

Many people with macular degeneration have reduced color vision and reduced contrast vision. The use of yellow, amber, and brown lenses can improve contrast vision and make it easier to see, especially in bright light—natural light or light that comes from bulbs.

Light sensitivity is also prevalent in people with aging eye diseases, particularly macular degeneration. This is because the macular cells regulate how the eyes adapt to various lighting conditions. When the macular cells are damaged, being in bright sunlight can be uncomfortable. Eyeglass frames that block the light from the top, bottom, and sides will reduce the discomfort of the eyes. Low vision eye care specialists will often use a grey, plum, green, or blue lens to reduce the glare discomfort and some of these lenses may be coated with a mirror to reduce the amount of light that enters the eyes.

So, no matter how your vision has been affected, there is a sunwear option to fit your needs—and allow for more comfort in sunlight…or light of any kind.