Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when debris builds up beneath the retina of the eye, causing abnormal blood vessels to form. “If left untreated, it typically causes loss of central vision over a few months to a few years,” says Neil M. Bressler, MD, professor of ophthalmology and chief of the retina division at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
When your eyesight begins to fail, daily activities — such as taking medication, reading, and driving — can become much more challenging. But a vision specialist can teach you tools and lifestyle modifications to help you see more clearly. “Through the use of various aids, low-vision rehabilitation is aimed at addressing each person’s individual goals to help maintain their level of independence as much as possible,” says Ashley Deemer, OD, an instructor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. Get started with these steps.
Update Your Eyeglasses
Some people will benefit from a new prescription for eyeglasses, although vision tends to stabilize about three months after eye injection treatments for wet AMD, Dr. Deemer says. There are also limits to how much glasses can help compensate for eye damage. Deemer compares the situation to a camera. Think of wearing glasses as focusing the camera lens and the retina as the film. “If the film is smudged or damaged in any way, the picture will still be blurry,” she says. Talk with your ophthalmologist to see if a new prescription might help.
Adjust Your Computer Screen
Changing some settings on your computer may help make it easier for you to see, according to the Macular Degeneration Partnership (MDP). For instance, you might increase the magnification on the screen and adjust the contrast to make it brighter or darker, Dr. Bressler says. It may take a few tries to find what works best for you. You might opt for a larger, bolder font and reverse the colors on your screen for a black background with white letters, Deemer says. Also, avoid any glare on your screen from sunlight or indoor lighting, the MDP says.
Update Your Phone
Try experimenting to find the best smartphone design with features that are most helpful to you and your vision. This might be a very simple phone with large, easy-to-press buttons, a smartphone that’s compatible with voice recognition software, or a touch screen phone with audio commands, magnification, and voice navigation, the Macular Degeneration Foundation of Australia (MDFA) suggests. Think of a cell phone as an important tool to help with directions, alarm reminders, and communicating with others.
Opt for Voice-Recognition Tools
Consider computer software programs that translate your voice into text and read text aloud, the American Foundation for the Blind suggests. “Voice recognition and dictation software, as well as text-to-speech software systems, can greatly improve the way that you receive information,” Deemer says. “Rather than relying on your vision, which may tend to fluctuate or be inconsistent, you can access this technology for correspondence with family and friends and complete work tasks.” Also try out gadgets like talking clocks, timers, and food thermometers, the MDFA suggests.
There are many magnifying devices available, from handheld options with lights to bar designs that magnify a line of text at a time. There are also domed, clip-on, pocket-sized, and fixed-stand magnifiers. These products work in different ways — some magnify a small area close up, and others magnify areas farther away, so you might choose several to fit all your vision needs. “Optical magnifiers can help by making print larger and therefore easier to read,” Deemer says. “Electronic magnification devices work by enhancing both the magnification level and the contrast, making reading tasks much easier for people with wet AMD.”