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Eye Health Center

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Contrast Important for Those with Vision Problems


Other useful devices include watches and timers with big numbers, attachments to phones that allow a person to see better so they can dial, and large print books. Many calculators and similar devices have been "taught how to talk."

"Contrast sensitivity seems to be important in these patients, and therefore has implications on the design of reading materials," they write. "Consideration should be given by manufacturers when labeling products so that maximum word visibility can be obtained."

Albert O. Edwards, MD, an ophthalmologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, tells WebMD the study highlights the importance of contrast when communicating with those who have macular problems. For instance, people going to the supermarket may take along a flashlight, in addition to a magnifying glass, to get more contrast between the paper and the letters on cans or other packaging.

"Express your needs to those you come into contact with," he says. "You should talk to others about what they need to do to communicate with you. Using a fine red pen on yellow paper might look nice, but would much be harder to read than a message left with a black marker on white paper."

William E. Smiddy, MD, from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, suggests some other considerations for those with low-level vision.

"When shopping for appliances and other items, always be aware of how easy they are to use," he says. "For instance when buying a new range, pay attention to whether you can read the dials; maybe a different color of the digital readouts will be better. Buying an appliance is not only finding a color you like, but also one that helps you use it."

Perhaps the most important point is to remind people with macular disease that they should not be embarrassed if they can't read something. If you suffer from it, tell loved ones and others what they can do to make communication with you easier.

Vital Information:

  • Macular degeneration occurs when the part of the eye responsible for fine detail in the center of vision begins to deteriorate.
  • For optimal reading abilities, people with macular degeneration need sharp contrast between the page and the writing.
  • To help aid reading, many tools are available, such as magnifying glasses, special telescopes, large-print books, and even a computer that can project large print onto a screen.
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