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What treatments are available for visual impairments?

Vision rehabilitation can help people with low vision compensate for their vision loss, much as rehabilitation helps people with heart disease, arthritis and stroke. You can learn new strategies to complete daily activities. By mastering new techniques and devices, you can regain confidence and live independently in spite of vision loss. This can be a challenging and frustrating period of adjustment — one that requires patience, practice, motivation and the support of your doctor, low vision specialist, family and friends. Yet the reward can be invaluable: being able to function better in your daily life.

The amount of rehabilitation needed depends on your vision loss and what you want to be able to do. A team approach is often best and may involve some or all of these professionals: ophthalmologist, low vision specialist, occupational therapist, rehabilitation teacher, orientation and mobility specialist, social worker and counselor.

Additionally, many devices can help people with low vision make the most of their remaining vision and to function better and enhance their quality of life. Different devices may be needed for different tasks. Before purchasing a device, consider talking to a trained professional who can help you determine what will best meet your needs. Remember that you will need training and practice to become skilled at using any device.

Optical low vision aids
Optical low vision devices use lenses to magnify objects, making them easier to see.

  • Magnifying spectacles are stronger than ordinary glasses. They can be used for near tasks such as reading, threading a needle, or any activity that requires close, detailed vision. Using them requires holding the printed page or object closer than usual in order to keep things in focus. With practice, this becomes comfortable. An advantage of magnifying spectacles is that the hands remain free to hold the reading materials or perform tasks.
  • Stand magnifiers rest directly on the reading material, keeping the lens at the proper distance from the page. Some stand magnifiers also have a built-in light. The ability to rest the magnifier on the page is useful for patients with a tremor or arthritis
  • Hand magnifiers are available in varying strengths to suit different people and different tasks. Reading material is not necessarily held as close to the face as with magnifying spectacles. Some models come with a built-in light. High-quality and high-powered magnifiers are often available only in specialized stores or through vision rehabilitation professionals.
  • Telescopes are used for seeing faraway objects or signs. They can be handheld like a pair of regular binoculars or mounted on a pair of eyeglasses.
  • Video magnifiers are electronic devices that use a camera and television screen to enlarge printed material, pictures or small objects. They are adjustable and can enhance the material in different ways. For example, a video magnifier can make the print appear darker (increased contrast). The technology is developing rapidly, and electronic devices are becoming smaller, more portable and easier to use. Some can even be used for both distance and near tasks.

Other aids include:

  • Electronic books, e-book readers and audio books;
  • Large-print books, newspapers, magazines, playing cards and checks;
  • High-contrast and large-number telephones, thermostats, watches and remote controls;
  • Talking watches, timers, books, and blood pressure and blood sugar machines;
  • Computers that read aloud what is viewed on screen.

 

Visual impairment or low vision is one of the 10 most common causes of disability among Americans. For veterans with low vision, the VA provides rehabilitation at home that has been shown to improve their situation. The low vision rehabilitation serves to boost functional ability, as the person learns to do everyday tasks that are hindered by the visual impairment.

According to a study reported in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, the veteran rehab problem includes home visits, counseling, low-vision assistive devices, and even homework assignments to improve vision, particularly those with macula diseases. After just four months, 64 veterans in the rehab treatment group experienced noticeable improvement in all parts of visual function, including the ability to read. The 62 veterans that did not receive home rehabilitation for visual impairment, declined in both vision and functional ability over four months.
Without rehabilitation, low vision among veterans adds to feelings of depression and results in injury and a decline in health.

Continue Learning about Visual Impairments

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.