Although getting older doesn't mean you lose your vision, many aging Americans are indeed dealing with some sort of vision disability. Some may develop what practitioners call "low vision," meaning vision that can't be corrected with regular glasses or contact lenses, medicine or surgery. Although this vision loss isn't common, those who do develop it do so as a result of eye diseases and conditions such as macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma and diabetes. A few develop vision loss after traumatic eye injuries or from birth defects.
For those with low vision tasks like reading the mail, shopping, cooking, watching TV and writing can be a challenge. At Emory Eye Center Low Vision clinicians help many attain a better level of independence and functionality with an array of high-tech, new devices on the market.
"At Emory Eye Center our Low Vision clinic is dedicated to the premise that we can provide assistance to many, many patients who are dealing with vision loss and need some real help," says Susan Primo, OD, MPH, director of the Vision & Optical Services section and Low Vision clinic. "By working with each patient's particular need, we can suggest a device that will be right for their situation. With the numerous options available today because of technology, we can offer our patients a product that will work with their lifestyle."
Options for those with low vision have included hand-held magnifiers, large-print dials and controls in the kitchen, talking clocks, large-print books, closed-circuit television, and increased lighting in the home. Among the new, state-of-the-art options are virtual reality systems, closed circuit televisions, magnifying systems for laptops, and a revolutionary device that reads the text it "sees." New reading lenses offer a light-weight, more cosmetically appealing option to those requiring high-plus readers.
Specific state-of-the-art products include the following:
- The JORDY 3 ™ (Enhanced Vision), an amazing "virtual reality" system that immerses the patient in a video image. A tiny, color television camera is mounted in a headborne device weighting less than 10 ounces. Designed for patients with whose vision is worse than 20/200, it ranges in power from as little as 1X to 24X for distance and up to 50X for reading. It is considered an all-in-one system because it enhances distance, can attach to a television or computer and has closed-circuit television capabilities for reading or writing.
- The Acrobat ™ (Enhanced Vision), a unique one-of-a-kind technology that will customize and memorize favorite settings for each of the three viewing modes: self-viewing, which is a camera that gives a true mirror image (for applying make-up, e.g.); distance viewing; and near viewing. The camera is attached to a portable arm that can clamp on to any table or desk. Once attached, it can provide up to 72X magnification. It is battery operated.
- The Amigo ™ (Enhanced Vision) is a revolutionary portable mini closed-circuit television (CCTV). It's very slim at less than 2 inches and weighs only 1.3 pounds. The viewing screen is large at 6.5 inches, with a tilting function to give the user more flexibility. Magnification ranges from 3.5 to 14X and connects to any TV for increased magnification and viewing area.
- The ClearView 517 series (Optelec), CCTVs, offer exceptional brightness/contrast, vibrant colors and magnification from 2 to 50X. It offers a full-color performance on an integrated 17" LCD TFT monitor with an adjustable arm or on a color or B/W CRT monitor.
- The ClearNote ™ (Optelec) is a lightweight, flexible solution for those who use a laptop, offering 3 to 46X magnification and full-screen reading and writing capability. It also features auto focus and can quickly and easily be adjusted for near and distance viewing—ideal for classrooms or offices where taking notes and reading distance boards is often necessary.
- The View ™ (Vision Technology Inn nc.) is a collapsible CCTV featuring a pop-up design and weighs only 15 pounds. The auto focus camera easily moves 360 degrees on a horizontal plane and 240 degrees on a vertical plane. The monitor and controls can be positioned directly in front of the user regardless of height. It is battery powered and especially ideal for students, home, office and travel.
- myReader ™ (Pulse Data Humanware) is one of the most innovative and unique reading devices on the market. It is the only low vision auto-reader. Having easy push-button controls, the camera basically takes a snapshot of the reading material and displays it within three seconds, and reads the text back out loud to the user. It automates the reading process by allowing the user to set the speed and amount of the page that appears on the monitor. MyReader ™ is completely transportable and compact and is a great device for home, school and office. The most expensive of the devices, it is well worth the money for those users needing this type of advanced technology.
- Noves ™ (Eschenbach) offers a superior optical quality in its reading lenses for those requiring a high level of correction. They are ultra-thin and attractive and available in both monocular and binocular designs.
- LED barlight (Eschenbach) is a light bar attachable via a clip to glasses, magnifiers, etc. The size of a pencil, it has a wireless power source containing six white LEDs. The added illumination often reduces the amount of magnification needed by the user.
- MaxTV Binocular glasses (Eschenbach) Binocular telescopic glasses are perfect for watching TV, sporting events, movies, theatre, bird watching, or any other distance viewing activity in which a magnified image would be helpful. These binocular telescope glasses will focus on objects from 10 feet to infinity. The hands-free, head-mounted glasses provide 2.1x magnification and can be adjusted so that each eye lens can be focused separately (+-3 diopters), making the system very adaptable. With fexible temples, this product provides a most comfortable distance viewing device.
- Contrast enhancement filters are now available (Chadwick Optical) in photochromatic plastic that provides an excellent option for either clip-ons or prescription sunwear.
"Although patient success with low vision devices can be dependent on many factors such as level of visual acuity, physical limitations, and length of time since vision loss, among other factors, for motivated patients these new low vision devices can provide them a quality of life otherwise not attainable," says Dr. Primo.