Macular degeneration is the loss of central vision – it is not blindness but rather low vision.
Low vision means that a person’s vision cannot be corrected by prescription glasses or through any medical or surgical intervention. Magnifiers for macular degeneration are meant to make the most of one’s usable vision. Often people want to know what the best macular degeneration magnifier is. The answer is that there is no one magnifier that is going to meet all of one’s needs for magnification. The type of magnifier you select depends on what activity it will be used for. It may be used for quick spot reading of a label on a can or a lengthier read like a magazine article. Performing hobbies like sewing or working in your workshop require one kind of magnifier, while watching TV or a sporting event requires yet another type. In order to select the best magnifiers to meet your individual needs there are several factors to consider.
1. Understand that there is no one “best magnifier” for someone with macular degeneration. Different tasks will require different magnifiers. Expect to own and use several different magnifiers. Identifying the task you need help with, like reading a novel or checking a price tag, will determine the best match of a magnifier for that task.
2. You need to know the magnifying power that is best for you. By visiting a low vision center, you can get your vision evaluated and get recommendations specifically for you. A stronger magnifying power than what you need is not better. Ask your low vision specialist to make a recommendation as to which strength will be best for your visual needs.
3. Because there are so many magnifier options, choose to purchase from a place or company that offers the opportunity to try the magnifiers before buying or allows one to return them if they are not helpful. Using magnifiers takes some training and practice. By visiting a low vision center, you can get help in selecting the ones that are best for your needs and obtain training in their use.
4. If you have more light, you can often use a lower power magnifier. Consider lighted magnifiers to give you improved visual acuity and clearer vision.
5. Correct positioning of the magnifier to the reading material is necessary for clarity and focus.
6. The lower the magnifying power the larger the field of view. When words or fonts are smaller you can see more of the paragraph, page or sentence in the viewing area.
7. The higher the magnifying power the smaller the field of view. Less of the reading page, paragraph or sentence can be seen in the viewing area.
8. Consider the lens or screen size for optimal viewing. The larger the lens or screen size the bigger the viewing area. For example, a large computer screen or a large low vision CCTV screen means more of a page or picture can be displayed and seen on the screen.
9. Handheld and hands-free magnifiers serve very different purposes. Handheld magnifiers can be cumbersome when trying to read a novel but work great for quick checking ingredients on a can of soup. A hands-free magnifier allows one to comfortably read for a longer period of time or perform a hobby or task with your hands while still getting the benefits of a magnifier.
10. As your macular degeneration progresses your magnifying needs will change. You may find that the magnifying TV glasses that worked so well for you in the past now no longer give you the clarity and magnification for clear TV viewing. However, electronic magnifiers, like low vision CCTVs, allow you to adjust your magnification and contrast so that even though your vision changes, you can still get your vision needs met by the same device.
Decide first what task the magnifier will be used for – such as reading, watching TV, performing a hobby or for checking prices at the store. Then purchase a magnifier for that specific task. To learn more about magnifiers for macular degeneration and the different styles that are available click here.
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
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