Sunday, July 29, 2007

Low Vision: Exploring Options

Millions of Americans lose some of their vision every year. Eye diseases and health conditions, such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetes, are just some of the causes of low vision. In fact, for those of us in Colorado, the state has one of the highest levels of macular degeneration in the country. While there are normal changes in our vision as we age, low vision itself is not an automatic part of growing older. Corrective lenses are designed for changes in the shape and function of the eye itself. Because low vision is generally the result of some other condition, it cannot generally be treated with regular glasses, contact lenses, medications or surgery.

We will write frequently about low vision as we continue to expand access to tools and resources across the country. As Pam assumes the presidency of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, she will bring us up-to-date information on the latest research efforts to fight diseases that affect vision at all ages and levels of ability. She will also introduce us to specialists and support groups nationwide. Feel free to contact Pam directly for more conversation on her work with FFB. Her blog posting on this is here.

Happily, there is an emerging field of specialty among optometrists and ophthalmologists that explores alternatives for those who experience low vision. Many eye care experts are expanding their own “vision” about low vision. These specialists may recommend diet, exercise and supplements, as well as new optical systems and technology to augment traditional vision tools. We have had the pleasure meeting many of these specialists since we opened Capabilities. Because we make a special effort to address our customers’ needs, low vision is high on our list.

Not only did we set about educating ourselves about low vision, we now make it our mission to educate the general public. We offer seminars in our community room, usually quarterly, on various aspects of low vision, featuring often one of these specialized low vision experts. We also showcase all the latest equipment and tools for low vision with representatives from high quality manufacturers. It’s become one of our most popular events. The next one is this week on July 31. If you are in the neighborhood, please plan to drop by for an informative session with Dr. Jennifer Tasca. Linda Beyleu-Conklin, principal of AGA, will be on hand to demonstrate some of the most impressive equipment for low vision on the market today. Please RSVP in our Events section.

If you are diagnosed with low vision, you will, no doubt, have many emotions. We spend a lot of time just talking with our customers about how they feel once diagnosed. We know so many courageous people who are facing their fears and taking the bull by the horns to stay as independent as they possibly can. If you would like to speak to one of them, contact us and we’ll hook you up with someone who has been there and is figuring out how to do the things they love. You, too, can take control, gathering information about resources to help you you’re your independence.

At Capabilities you will find an ever-expanding selection of low vision tools. Here’s a sampling of just a few of the tools available to enhance every day life.
  • Hand-held magnifiers and stand magnifiers are traditional resources. These tools are best when performing tasks requiring near vision. The latest versions come with a choice of lights to enhance the visual field. Try incandescent, halogen and LED lighting for what works best for you.
  • The closed circuit TV (CCTV), or video reader as it’s more popularly called, provides greater degrees of magnification when magnifiers are no longer convenient or effective. Improvements to an earlier design provide flat, movable screens and a variety of color contrasting options to suit your needs. The battery-operated, portable versions are great for traveling or doing routine activities, such as shopping and reading menus. Wait until you see the latest of these which features a movable camera to allow for near and far vision options.
  • Telescopes and bioptics help improve distance vision and come in various forms. Some attach to your current eyeglasses, others are attached to headbands that fit around your head while you watch television or a play. We are showcasing the latest of these models at our upcoming seminar.
  • Solar filters are essential for reducing glare and enhancing contrast. They come in fashionable styles nowadays as well as the traditional wrap-around versions.
Exploring options will give you hope and a vision rehabilitation plan that works for you! Let us help you find out about the many options available to you. Send us an email with your questions or contact us by phone and we’ll share all that we know with you.

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