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Low Vision Blog

Depression and Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects the central vision, limits the ability to recognize faces, read, drive, and navigate common everyday activities. We often try to find solutions to overcome the loss of such activities. Typically through low vision devices, magnification, adaptive aids, and technology, we can help folks complete the tasks and activities they desire. But there’s another side to this story- treating the depression- or at least recognizing the depression. Many folks who suffer with macular degeneration (or any form of low vision), do so greatly because of the depression that co-exists with the vision loss. In fact, 10 to 30 percent of people with macular degeneration have depression, which is double the normal rate for people older than 70 (Goldstein).


Macular degeneration is an age-related eye disease, so it’s not that surprising to learn of the depression rates among those affected. Most of the folks I see here at our low vision clinic have gone through life relatively healthy, and managed their lives well. Eye disease leading to low vision requires people to re-examine their lives and forces them to deal with the adversity. People need to grieve; they need to have the time to move through the grief & loss process.

If you have macular degeneration or low vision from another eye disease, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, stroke, cataracts, etc… I encourage you to have comprehensive care that extends beyond the eye doctor. Consider visiting us at ForSight Vision so we can better understand what it’s like for you living with low vision. We’re here to help….. and listen.     

Jennifer C. Zack, M.S., CLVT

Clinical Director / Certified Low Vision Therapist

What Does 20/20 Visual Acuity Mean?

What Does 20/20 Visual Acuity Really Mean?

If you’ve been to the eye doctor lately, you may have heard what you measured that day in terms of visual acuity. 20/20 is what we consider unimpaired vision- but what exactly does that mean? Well, of course I could give you all the jargon and mumble jumble related to size measurement and all that, but I have an easier way of explaining it.

Technically, someone is deemed “Low Vision” if they are 20/70 or poorer in the better eye. In comparison to unimpaired vision (20/20), someone with low vision of 20/70 has to move as close as 20 feet to an object that I can see at 70 feet with unimpaired vision. We really need to think in terms of clarity and detail here. For example, with macular degeneration, maybe you measure 20/100. Ok, so that tells us, you see 5 times less clearly than your counterpart that views with 20/20 vision. Or, we can say I can see something at 100 feet that you have to be as close at 20 feet to see.

Low vision rehabilitation can help you with using your remaining vision more efficiently; from very mild impairment of 20/40 to severe impairment of 20/400 and poorer.

Quick Stats

20/70: Low Vision

20/200: Legal Blindness

20/2000: Near Total Blindness

No Light Perception: Total Blindness

Conventional Low Vision Devices for Near Tasks

This week I’d like to present information about near vision optical devices; specifically the advantages and disadvantages to some of the most common devices. Near vision optical devices are the most commonly sought-after aids when it comes to low vision. Why? Because they assist with reading, and fine-detail work. Many of my patients wish to read the newspaper, the Bible, or read cards they receive in the mail. Using near vision optical devices can help with such activities.



-       Wider field of view than handheld magnifiers

-       Binocular viewing (in powers up to about 12 diopters)

-       Can provide relatively normal appearance


-       Shorter working distance than handheld magnifiers

-       Do not have built-in illumination

Hand Held Magnifiers


-       Provide longer working distance than spectacles

-       Built-in illumination available


-       Smaller field of view than spectacles

-       Requires the use of one hand to position the magnifier

-       Requires a steady grip

-       Indicates to others that person has reduced vision (this may also be considered an advantage by some people)

Stand Magnifiers


-       Steady grip not required

-       Built-in illumination available


-       Limited range of working distances for presbyopia (diminished ability to focus on objects at near, usually with age)

-       Indicates to others that person has reduced vision (this may also be considered an advantage by some people)

If these low vision devices sound interesting to you, or if you’d like to learn more, please call to set up an appointment for a functional low vision assessment.

Tactile Markings Aids

Having challenges seeing the dial on the stove or oven?  How about accessing the print on the washer and dryer dials?  I know the microwave keypad is also a challenge for many folks...  This week, I am passing along helpful hints to mark your home and items with tactile markings so your fingers can do the work for you, or by way of using the contrast of the markings to your advantage.  Some of the recommendations this week come from "textbook examples", and others come from tried and true methods from clients and patients I have worked with over the years. 


Bump Dots:  these little guys come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.  Great for marking the microwave, stove, oven, washer, and dryer.  Everyone likes something different- if you'd like to consult with me, we can figure out a system that is exactly for you!

Colored electrical tape:  this is a great resource, and very inexpensive.  The tape is used more for the contrast and/or bold effect as opposed to the tactile element like the bump dots.  You could use this for just about anything, but a couple years ago, I used it on the sides of a client's handrails on her walker.  She had issues with depth perception, and by highlighting the rails on either side, it acted as a guide for her hand placement.


Puffy paint:  I love this stuff!  Again, very inexpensive, and can be picked up at any craft store.  This is available in a variety of colors and works well on surfaces that the bump dots will not.  I have marked phones, remote controls, stereos, and CD players with puffy paint.  Puffy paint can also be used on oven and stove dials, as well as the washer and dryer.  Having trouble reading the settings on the thermostat?  Puffy paint works very well for marking the thermostat.  This paint is ideal for making large print letters and numbers if you are trying to get some files made or become more organized.


Rubber bands:  This is what I usually recommend when people tell me about all the times they have used the conditioner in the shower, when they really wanted the shampoo.  Place rubber bands around the more dominant item- in this case, I think of shampoo being the dominant item when it comes to clean hair.  When you go to reach for the bottle of shampoo, it should have the rubber bands, and the conditioner bottle will have nothing around it.  Rubber bands can be used for many, many purposes.  Canned food is another great idea, and frozen foods too.  You can devise your own system; maybe your chicken soup will have one rubber band, and tomato soup will have two rubber bands.  Frozen peas, one rubber band, and frozen broccoli, two rubber bands.... the list could go on and on.  My favorite piece of advice for rubber band use came from a dear lady I worked with years ago.  She had several medications to take each day, at different times of the day.  She could never remember if she had taken them or not.  To solve that problem, she placed rubber bands around each medicine bottle.  When she took the pill from the bottle, she would remove the rubber bands.  That way, when she went back later in the day, she could feel at ease knowing that she did indeed take the pill because there was not a rubber band on the bottle.  At the beginning of each day, or the night before, she would place the rubber bands back on the bottles for the next day.


There are hundreds of marking devices available.  I try to recommend items that are inexpensive and easy to use.  Do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss what system may be helpful for you. 

   - Jennifer



ForSight Vision
Telephone: 717-848-1690
Toll Free: 800-255-6578
Fax: 717-845-3889

Adams County
Telephone: 800-255-6578

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Office: M-F 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
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