Tips for Seeing Better with Macular Degeneration

Tips for Seeing Better with Macular Degeneration

Good vision is precious. It allows us to enjoy so many beautiful things life has to offer, from sunrises and sunsets to the smiles of children. On a more practical, day-to-day level, good vision simply makes life easier. You can watch the news, read a magazine, and get around more easily. That contributes to seniors and elderly adults staying independent long into the golden years.

While almost everyone will need corrective lenses at some point in their lives, some are faced with something much more serious than picking out their favorite frames: millions of elderly individuals face the prospect of macular degeneration, an age-related problem with your eyes that can lead to irreversible blindness.


What is Macular Degeneration?


According to Genentech, about 20 million seniors in the United States live with age-related macular degeneration, known as AMD. About 1.5 million people have the advanced form of the disease. If left untreated, it becomes irreversible. In fact, it’s one of the top drivers of blindness among seniors aged 60 or older.1


The early stages of AMD are often unnoticeable, which is a reason why it’s so important to visit the eye doctor on a regular basis – a professional will be able to spot the problem even if you aren’t showing symptoms yet. When you do begin to show symptoms, you can expect to have sudden blurry vision, blind spots, trouble seeing in dim light or distinguishing colors, or a distortion of the lines and edges of objects that makes them appear wavy.


There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. The dry type is what the vast majority of those with AMD are diagnosed with. Though this type doesn’t have a cure, it usually moves quite slowly, giving you several years of good vision before the problems become serious.


Wet AMD, on the other hand, is much more serious. It involves new, abnormal blood vessels in the eye that can leak and cause vision loss. This tends to happen rapidly and can lead to irreversible blindness.


For anyone who has AMD, low vision is a concern. Low vision isn’t blindness; rather, it is the loss of central vision. Your vision becomes blurry or obscured but often your peripheral vision is fine.


Not only does low vision mean a greater possibility of falls – necessitating an alert for elderly adults to help ensure safety around the home and while on the go – it also means difficulty with the activities of daily life. Learning how to live with the condition often means turning to a variety of tools, such as magnifiers, to help you read or see small print.


Magnifiers for Those with Macular Degeneration


Though corrective lenses can help you see better in the early stages of AMD, sometimes you will need to see things that are just too small or close for your glasses to help. To that end, magnifiers are a top choice for those with low vision. In fact, those with macular degeneration might find that they carry around a magnifier at all times – you might even wear it on a lanyard around your neck, much like one would wear a personal emergency button alert.


But from the hundreds of magnifiers out there, how do you know you’re getting the right one?


An avid cook will want a magnifier that makes it easy to read labels and recipes. A person who is rather crafty will want a magnifier that allows them to do close-vision work, such as sewing or painting. Those who love to read will want a larger magnifier, perhaps with a light, that can be used on the pages of a book or magazine with ease.


Here are some tips for choosing and using the right magnifier.


·        You can choose more than one. Having a variety of magnifiers placed strategically around the house is a very good idea. Keeping a small magnifier on a lanyard can help when you are on the go. But a magnifier on your bedside table for reading, another hanging in the pantry for reading labels, and another by your recliner can be great.

·        Ask your eye doctor what sort of magnifier you need. They will be able to tell you the magnifying power you need to look for when purchasing a magnifier; after all, one that isn’t strong enough won’t help.

·        The higher the magnifying power, the smaller the field of view will be. That means that you will see less of the page of a book, for example, in the magnifier. Lower power means you can see more of the page, but smaller fonts might still be too small to read clearly.

·        There are regular magnifiers and lighted ones. Think about where and how you use the magnifier to help you decide which ones might be best. For instance, when looking at cans in the kitchen, a lighted magnifier can provide a bright, precise look at a label. But when you are sitting in your easy chair at night with a bright light on the table next to you, a lighted magnifier might not be as important.

·        You can also choose between stationary (hands-free) magnifiers and handheld. A stationary magnifier is ideal for those who are working on crafts or even reading a novel, as you can simply work under the field of vision and not fuss with moving the magnifier around. But if you are reading something small, the handheld option is the best bet. You can certainly have both; one that you carry around with you and one that stays in a particular place.

·        Keep in mind that some magnifiers are in the form of glasses, which allow you to watch television or work on a computer comfortably. These should be used for very specific tasks. You might need to adjust your position when you use these magnifiers, such as moving your chair closer to the television.

·        Electronic magnifiers are a newer option that can make life much easier for you as macular degeneration progresses. These magnifiers allow you to adjust the magnification over time, so you don’t have to worry about buying new devices over the years. While these might be more expensive at first, when you consider all the other magnifiers you won’t need to buy, the cost makes sense.

·        Be patient with yourself as you learn to use a magnifier. The distance the device needs to be from whatever you are looking at will vary depending upon the magnifier, the lighting around you, or even how tired your eyes are that particular day.

·        Finally, while you can easily purchase a magnifier online and have it shipped to your door, it would be best to purchase from a company that allows you to use the magnifier for a bit before deciding to keep it. A company that allows a free trial of a magnifier or sends you different strengths to choose from can be a big help. You can also talk to your eye doctor about what they have in stock or where you can find good magnifiers in your local area. This allows you to try them out for at least a short time before you purchase one.


Tips to Avoid Macular Degeneration


Some risk factors, like age, race, and gender, can’t be changed. But there are some things you can do, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Bright Focus Foundation, to keep your eyes healthier:2


·        Don’t smoke. As you already know, smoking causes all sorts of havoc in the body.

·        Lose weight. Those who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop AMD.

·        Eat a healthy diet. A diet high in saturated fats, such as that found in meat, butter, and cheese, could contribute to eye problems of all kinds.

·        Control chronic conditions. Those who have high blood pressure, heart disease, or high cholesterol levels are at greater risk for AMD.3


When you are managing AMD, ask your doctor for ways to make life easier. In addition to magnifiers, look into devices designed specifically for those with low vision, such as cell phones with large buttons and enhanced screens, computer monitors that are larger than normal and make it easy to zoom in, or clocks that glow brightly with larger numbers. There are even new technologies that use virtual reality to “fill in” the gaps in your vision and make your day-to-day life easier.


Whether you are suffering from low vision as a result of macular degeneration or any other kind of eye problem, using a medical alarm is a very good idea. Any issues with vision can lead to a much higher risk of falls, and falls lead to a greater risk of serious fractures or head injuries.


Keep yourself safe with a medical alert device as a constant companion – wear it at all times, and if you do suffer any sort of medical emergency, you can press the panic button to reach a live, trained professional 24/7. And if you opt for a medical alert system with fall detection, you’re even safer. That’s incredible peace of mind that can help you live your life to the fullest.