Magnifying glasses such as magnified reading glasses and full diameter magnifying glasses can help low vision patients with reading and other important tasks.
Being able to easily read whatever’s in front of us, be it a book, something on a screen, or a label in the supermarket, is something we all take for granted until it’s suddenly a challenge for us.
While all corrective lenses provide some measure of magnification, patients with low vision tend to need significantly more help, particular for reading. Fortunately, there are things that can help low vision patients be able to do those important and enjoyable tasks again.
For most people, regular corrective lenses (glasses and contact lenses) are sufficient when it comes to correcting their vision. However, as people age, or as they suddenly lose some measure of vision due to a disease or injury, things get more complicated. Patients with low vision need help beyond what glass and contacts can provide. In age-related conditions, this is often due to a gradual degeneration of light-sensitive cells in the retina, where vision processing takes place.
Regular lenses can’t correct for permanent blind spots (scotomas) in the visual field which are caused by issues like macular degeneration.
While the damage caused to the eyes by low vision conditions cannot be repaired in most cases, that doesn’t mean patients can’t regain the ability to do things that they love.
Specialized magnifiers that help compensate for an area of vision lost tend to be focused on a particular area or focal distance. Some are designed for patients with peripheral vision loss, with others for those with central vision loss.
Several design types of magnifiers for low vision patients include:
Low vision reading glasses: These are much like regular reading but with prismatic lenses that provide enhanced magnification and focus the vision on a comfortable focal point. However, because of the high power of these lenses, they may require the wearer to work on tasks at closer distances since they reduce field of view. While this may require some adjustment on the part of the wearer, it usually does not take long for patients to adapt.
Magnifiers which are mounted on regular glasses: These allow for some additional versatility, as they can be easily put on when required for close tasks and removed for other activities.
Low vision magnifiers provide significantly more magnification than even the most powerful glasses or contact lenses. They also help compensate for damage to the eyes by helping patients use more of the healthy retina around the part with more damage while reading.
Due to aging, and other factors, important light-sensitive cells in the retina can degenerate, particularly in the center, the portion required when reading small letters. Some magnifiers can also help in the area of contrast, which also plays a role in reading.
Low vision magnifiers for reading can be handheld, or mounted, depending on your needs. For example, a hands-free device can enable a patient to freely do tasks they enjoy such as reading, writing, or playing the piano, which low vision can make all-but impossible. Handheld magnifiers, conversely, are easy to carry around to places like supermarkets, to help read labels on products.
Everyone who experiences low vision does so differently. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you get the right magnifier for your needs. Doing some research and, more importantly, speaking with a low vision optometrist, is highly recommended before you purchase a low vision magnifier.
The first step is determining what type of magnifier you need, followed by determining more precisely what sort of magnification it needs to provide.
A low vision technician or therapist is also best positioned to recommend you proven, recognized brands, to ensure that you get something that works, and that is as affordable as possible. Additional, store-bought magnification glasses may have high magnification, but are often of lesser quality and have some visual distortion or a narrow focal distance. Our optometrists can work with you to make a recommendation of high quality optics at your budget.