Reading Aids for Those with Macular Degeneration

seinor reading lightingAmdblog.org is excited to welcome and introduce Leslie Degner as a guest blogger this week. Leslie is a registered nurse who found herself concerned with macular degeneration when she learned her father-in-law suffered from the wet form in the fall of 2008. This, in turn, meant that her husband was genetically predisposed to vision loss. From there, Leslie began finding ways to help her father-in-law manage life with vision loss while also discovering what can be done to reduce her husband’s risk of developing the condition.

Through her quest for knowledge on the subject, Leslie has become a self-taught guru when it comes to all things AMD. This week, she has prepared a helpful article exclusively for amdblog.org on Alternative Reading Aids for Macular Degeneration Patients.:

Managing bills or reading labels, it is a favorite pastime for many who savor the latest sequel from their favorite author or enjoy the latest decorating tips from their favorite magazine. However, with the loss of central and sharp, detailed vision for those with macular degeneration, reading becomes a challenge. The good news is that you don’t have to give up reading thanks to the many visual aids that are now available. Here are some of the ways you can make reading more enjoyable:

1. Lighting

The first place to start is to assess the light fixture you use while reading. A table lamp or overhead lighting is not adequate. Choose a lamp, whether a floor lamp or desk lamp, that has an adjustable arm so that the light can be positioned and directed onto the reading material. There is no one type of bulb that works for everyone. Usually the brighter the better. Be sure to check the maximum wattage of the lamp and do not exceed it. Halogen or LED bulbs are often preferred, but incandescent bulbs can also provide adequate lighting.

Have you noticed how much easier it is to read when you are near a window on a bright sunny day? Use that to your advantage. My father-in-law who has wet macular degeneration has moved his reading chair near a window in the guest bedroom which gets lots of sunlight. He will tell you that he can see the best in that sunny spot.

2. Large Print Books

Increase the font size for easier reading. Large print books can be bought or can be found at your local library. Of course the selection is limited, but you can always ask the reference desk if they can get your desired book in large print. Now that electronic book readers have become more popular and affordable, consider getting a Kindle, iPad or Barnes and Noble Nook. Adjustable font sizes, better contrast and reduced glare make these easy to use devices popular for those with macular degeneration.

3. Magnifiers

There are different magnifiers for different types of reading. My father-in-law enjoys reading the newspaper at the kitchen table with his dome magnifier. It easily glides over the print and is much more functional than using a handheld magnifier. If one wants to quickly read a bill or check a label than a handheld (or better yet a lighted handheld) magnifier works great. Anyone who enjoys reading for a more extended period of time will find that a hands free magnifier is the most comfortable. Full page magnifiers with a larger viewing area are preferred to ones with a small viewing area.

4. Combining

To maximize one’s usable vision, it is best to combine these aids or tips. For example my father-in-law enjoys reading on his Nook set at the largest font placed under his lighted full page magnifier. You may find that if you combine an adjustable bright light with a large print book that you may not need a reading magnifier, but if you do, add a full page magnifier.

5. Technology

It is always best that one visit a low vision specialist for recommendations on magnifying power and low vision aids. The most helpful low vision technology for reading is a desktop magnifier called a CCTV (closed circuit TV). Place any book or magazine under a camera and the page is magnified onto a large screen. The ability to enlarge the font up to 75 X means the magnification can be adjusted to meet just about every kind of need.

In closing, we’d like to thank Leslie Degner and share her inspiring mantra with you:

“Better Health for Better Vision. One’s eye health is a reflection of the health condition of a person’s body. It is often at a general eye exam, that an eye doctor can discover that a person may have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic disease. A healthy lifestyle benefits the eyes and the entire body.”

To learn more about other visual aids for macular degeneration visit Leslie’s website.

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