The most serious symptom of macular degeneration (AMD) is the loss of central vision, with those in the more advanced stages of AMD experiencing a smudge or black spot in the center of their vision. This makes it difficult to read and causes many people to give up on reading.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Below you will find a list of low vision devices and strategies that can help people with AMD read more easily and comfortably.
Members of The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists are experts in determining which low vision devices will work best for you for reading.
Low Vision Devices for Reading
Hand-held magnifiers are the most commonly used visual aids for spot reading among those with AMD and other low vision conditions. In the correct power, they are useful for reading medicine bottles, prices, labels, oven dials, etc. While you can find small pocket magnifiers, full-page illuminated magnifiers, and magnifiers that are mounted on adjustable stands, only your low vision doctor can determine exactly what power you need.
Portable Electronic Magnifiers
A portable electronic magnifier resembles an iPad or a tablet. By holding this device in front of your reading material, you can view the magnified version on its LED screen.
High-Power Reading Glasses
Strong magnifying reading eyeglasses enable a person with severe visual impairment to read the fine print. Your low vision eye doctor will determine the correct near prescription and demonstrate how they work.
Although traditional optical magnifiers, such as magnifying glasses, are generally very helpful, some people benefit more from a video magnifier. A video magnifier, or closed-circuit television (CCTV), has a camera that transmits magnified images (up to 50x or higher) and displays them on a large monitor or TV screen. You can sit as close to the screen as you like and adjust the magnification, brightness, and contrast for reading clarity.
Tele-microscopic lenses are mounted on the eyeglass lenses and may be prescribed for one or both eyes. They allow people with low vision to read, use a computer, write, and perform other tasks at a comfortable distance.
Certain low vision devices require a prescription from an eye doctor as they are custom-made for your specific needs. Consult Dr. Dora Sudarsky, who will help determine which vision aids are best for your needs, based on your lifestyle and level of vision impairment.
Other Strategies To Help You Read With Macular Degeneration
Increase in Contrast
It's important to ensure a stark contrast between the text being read and its background. Newspapers don't offer much contrast because the grey letters sit on an off-white background.
Many electronic screens allow you to tailor the contrast to your needs: black lettering on a white background; white lettering on a black background; black lettering on a yellow background; and yellow lettering on a dark black background. Try the different color combinations and settle on the color contrast combination that offers the best contrast for the most comfortable reading experience.
Increasing the amount and type of lighting can greatly improve reading ability in those with AMD.
Direct light. A standard table lamp usually won’t provide sufficient light for reading a book. Consider getting an adjustable gooseneck lamp that allows you to focus the light directly onto the reading material.
Sunlight. Because natural sunlight is the ideal lighting for reading, try to arrange your furniture in such a way that you can sit near a window for comfortable daytime reading.
Lightbulbs. Use the brightest light bulbs for each light fixture in the house. These include LED, halogen, and full-spectrum light bulbs (which mimics natural sunlight more than incandescent bulbs). Be careful with halogen, however, as they may create excessive heat. Replace any fluorescent lighting in the house, as it can cause glare, particularly for those with low vision. For reading, however, the best option is to use lower strength light bulbs and bring the lamp closer.
E-reader. Kindles and other e-readers conveniently include a built-in light that allows you to adjust brightness for more comfortable reading.
Large Print Books or Larger Fonts
Consider purchasing large print books online or in book shops, as they include larger fonts, more spacing and better contrast. If you opt for electronic books, you can conveniently increase the font size, rendering it easier and more enjoyable to read.
Your electronic reading device allows you to adjust the spacing between the lines as needed. By widening the space between lines, you will find reading easier and will experience less eye strain.
Speak with Dr. Dora Sudarsky for more advice on reading with macular degeneration or to get low vision aids and devices.
Low Vision Clinic at Chroma Optics serves low vision patients in South Burlington, Montpelier, Shelburne, and Essex, throughout Vermont.