A person with Macular Degeneration may find that they are able to see small print, but when it comes to reading, it becomes muddled even if their vision is 20/20. Reading becomes difficult and uncomfortable. This has a great deal to do with the very subtle distortion which is created due to the macula and the underlying deposits that go onto the macula. The patient may have 20/20 vision, but the distortion can make it difficult for them to see clearly.

What are some of the challenges a person with Macular Degeneration might experience?

When we read we don't look at every single letter, we actually look ahead way more than we are looking at the letter we are saying. When a person with early stage macular degeneration is reading, their vision may seem fine, but the subtle changes to their vision may start to make it harder to read.

The following are some challenges that a person with early stage Macular Degeneration experiences while reading:

  • These subtle distortions make it difficult for them to judge what's coming up ahead as they read and slow down their reading, which can be frustrating for them.
  • Confusion over the meaning of words and sentences, as they spend more effort seeing what they are reading instead of understanding what they are reading.
  • Overlooking or omitting details, especially subtle ones.
  • Inability to distinguish significant information from minor details
  • The inability to concentrate while reading
  • Needing more lighting or feeling like things are darker especially when doing tasks that require central vision such as reading
  • Seeing a straight line as a little wavy
  • Seeing colors less vividly

What can be done to make reading easier for you if you have AMD?

  • Contrast - It is difficult to distinguish letters and words when reading from a newspaper or website that has little contrast, such as light gray letters on an off-white background.  White background with dark black lettering provides better contrast, which leads to better visual acuity. Most computers and phones have settings that can be tweaked to improve contrast. Other low vision devices, such as colored filter lenses can also help with contrast.
  • Lighting - If you have ever taken a photo in a dark environment, you understand how important lighting is to a great photo. Our eyes function much like a camera, when a person has early stage AMD a little extra lighting will go a long way in improving the quality of what their eyes capture. Use extra lighting when reading, we recommend an adjustable lamp that lets you bring the light closer or farther away while also adjusting the angle. If you are unsure if lighting will help, do a simple test by seeing if reading is easier in a brightly lit room or outdoors.
  • Font Selection - There are large paper print books available, but the selection is limited.  When reading on an electronic device, you will have the option of choosing the font size that provides the best reading experience as well as the type of font. Computers and cellphones will let you adjust the default settings to make all text slightly larger.
  • Large Screen - A larger screen allows you to see more of the page.  Listening to books on an iPod is great, but the screen may be small for reading long passages.
  • Formatting - Are you aware you can adjust the line spacing on your electronic reading device?  You will find reading easier and more comfortable just by increasing the space between the lines in your settings. Wide margins and more space around the words reduce eye strain and improve readability.
  • Slight Magnification - Many early stage macular degeneration patients will have great improvement with reading by adding slight magnification to their glasses. There are many options out there but one of the more popular ones is ESCOOP glasses which combine with your prescription slight magnification with tint, anti glare, and if needed prisms.

These strategies will make reading enjoyable again and reduce eye strain.

Schedule a Low Vision Exam

One of the things that may surprise you is that we recommend a low vision exam even if you have not had any significant vision loss. This is because a low vision exam is all about empowering the patient with the knowledge of how to cope with their current vision loss and prepare them for potential future vision loss. We spend lots of time with the patient explaining to them how their condition will begin to impact their vision as well as the solutions available to them to ensure a happy and visually vibrant life with macular degeneration.

Access top-quality eye care for a medical eye exam at our state-of-the-art optometry clinic in Bellflower, catering to patients from Long Beach, Lakewood, and Los Angeles. Call (562) 925-6591 or fill out this form to make an appointment today.
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