Rehab is Key for Persons with Low Vision, Macular Degeneration

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By Dr. Erica A. Hacker, O.D.

Incredible progress has been made in the treatment of macular degeneration in the past few years. A groundbreaking new treatment program uses a tiny telescope that is implanted inside the eye. Injections for exudative, or wet, macular degeneration are preventing the devastating vision loss that used to accompany this eye disease. But neither treatment provides a cure and patients still struggle with reading and seeing details.

What can be done for people with reduced vision? Low vision rehabilitation is the answer. It uses special lenses, magnifiers, tools and techniques to maximize a person’s vision so they can do the things they used to do. Maintaining independence is important to everyone and can be a challenge with vision loss. Low vision rehabilitation allows people to read the newspaper, prescription bottles and write checks. Adaptations for cooking and working around the house enable a person with macular degeneration to remain safe in their home.

Anne, an 87 year old with macular degeneration, decided to take part in a low vision rehabilitation program and learned to use special glasses to write her checks and uses a magnifier to teach her Sunday school class. As Anne said, “I am so hopeful now… ”

Low vision rehabilitation programs provide a specially trained optometrist who performs a comprehensive exam to determine a person’s level of vision, and then prescribes optical aids designed to maximize remaining eyesight. Quality programs, like Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, also provide an occupational therapist who teaches how to most effectively use the devices.

Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, a 104-year-old private nonprofit, is a leader in programs and services for people of all ages who are blind, vision impaired, or have other disabilities. We believe in independence through rehabilitation. Our mission is to change the lives of persons with vision loss and other disabilities by fostering independence and individual choice. We offer comprehensive and personalized computer instruction, employment and vocational services, personal adjustment to blindness and deaf blindness training, independence skill building, in- home instruction, low vision services, children’s vision screening, prevention of blindness services, and an industrial employment program. BVRS is a United Way Impact Fund Award for Excellence Agency and is accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC).

Erica A. Hacker, O.D., is an optometrist in the Low Vision Department at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. For more information on Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, call (412) 368-4400 or visit www.bvrspittsburgh.org.