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Low-Vision Devices Keep Independence in Sight

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Available electronic devices include the MaxPort, a computer mouse-like device that scans a page and magnifies it on a regular television screen or a closed circuit television (CCTV). When using the CCTV, reading material is placed on a platform and projected onto a screen. Contrast can be controlled.

"The majority of people with macular degeneration prefer white letters on a black background," Bruce Rosenthal, OD, tells WebMD. Rosenthal is chief of the Low Vision Program at Lighthouse International and a professor at Mount Sinai-New York University Medical Center.

Eye conditions other than macular degeneration can cause low vision. Others include glaucoma, a condition where the pressure in the eye causes damage to the optic nerve, which slowly destroys the patient's vision; cataracts; and vision loss associated with diabetes.

Rosenthal says that most people do not know there is help for low vision and feel it's a normal part of aging. It's not. "I've been doing this for 25 years and one of my major life objectives is to get the word out."

Lighthouse International, the AMD Alliance International and the National Eye Institute are some of the organizations that help direct patients to a low-vision clinic in their area. They have toll free numbers and web sites: AMD Alliance International, http://www.AMDalliance.com, (877) AMD-7171; Lighthouse International, http://www.lighthouse.org, (800) 829-0500; and the National Eye Institute, http://www.nei.nih.gov, (301) 496-5248.

Vital Information:

  • Although many patients who are losing their vision are told that nothing more can be done, there are low-vision clinics that can direct people to vision-assisting devices and rehabilitation therapy that will enable them to maintain their lifestyles.
  • Some common eye conditions that cause low vision are macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and vision loss associated with diabetes.
  • Low-vision-assisting devices can include anything from special, high-powered lenses to high-tech devices, such as the Jordy or the MaxPort.
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