Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes loss of central vision. Specialized glasses may help people with macular degeneration maximize their vision and help them perform everyday tasks.
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a condition in which vision loss occurs in the central part of the vision. The macula is part of the retina and helps people see images and objects sharply.
Dry AMD is caused by the breakdown of cells within the macula, and vision loss occurs gradually. Wet AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye and leads to faster vision loss.
A range of specialized eyeglasses and vision aids are available to help people with AMD see more clearly with their near and far vision.
This article looks at the type of glasses available to help with AMD, other vision aids that may help, potential costs, and expectations.
Different types of glasses are available for people with AMD, including:
Bifocal glasses may help improve near and near vision as the lenses are divided horizontally into different sections. The lower section allows people to see for reading, while the upper section improves distance vision.
Read about buying bifocal glasses here.
yellow tinted glass
In the early stages of AMD, people may have two deposits, which are tissue deposits, in the retina. This can affect vision, and people may have difficulty adjusting to dim light after exposure to bright light. They may also have decreased contrast sensitivity, which means that it is difficult to recognize textures or contrasts in their surroundings, such as a rug on the floor, the rungs of a staircase, or the difference between two similar colors next to each other.
Yellow-tinted glasses contain yellow-tinted lenses, which may help increase contrast and ease vision problems for people with early AMD.
A 2018 study looked at the effects of yellow filters on 110 people with low vision and reduced contrast sensitivity. The researchers found a significant improvement in contrast sensitivity using yellow filters.
People should avoid wearing yellow-tinted glasses at night, especially while driving, as they reduce the amount of light that reaches the eyes and can be dangerous.
high strength lenses
People with advanced AMD may benefit from higher-strength lenses. These glasses have a high level of magnification and a built-in prism. This allows both eyes to work together to improve vision for activities such as reading.
People with advanced AMD can use a bioluminescent telescope to help improve distance vision. A small telescope system is attached to the eyeglasses, which helps people to see distant objects at a distance. Some states allow people to use it while driving.
Magnifying lenses magnify objects in front of people but do not correct farsightedness or nearsightedness.
The magnifying lens is thicker than normal glasses. Magnifying lenses magnify objects close to the eyes, so they are only suitable for improving near vision.
Glasses can also help protect the eyes from irritants or injury. Glasses with polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant, so they don’t shatter like other materials. If people still have good vision in one eye, polycarbonate glasses may help protect the eyes from any trauma.
Polycarbonate lenses also provide additional protection against anything that enters the eye, such as insects.
Anti-glare filters or anti-reflective coating
Macular degeneration may make the eyes more sensitive to light, and glare from bright light may cause additional vision problems.
Choosing glasses with anti-reflective coating may help reduce glare. People can also use anti-glare filters, which fit over the top of regular glasses and can help protect the eyes.
Other vision aids that may help people with AMD include:
- magnifying glasses: These work in a similar way to magnifying glasses, but are hand-held or standing devices rather than eyeglasses. Magnifying devices may operate at longer distances than magnifying lenses.
- binoculars or monocular: People can use binoculars for both eyes to help see things at a distance, such as reading signs or watching a theater show. People can use a monocular in one eye to help with near and far vision.
- Tiboscopes: Typoscopes are how-to guides that aid in reading or writing. They are sheets of black or plastic card with slots cut out to eliminate any glare or distracting information when looking at a specific area on a screen, book, or newspaper.
- CCTV amplifiers: The camera zooms in on something, such as a book or a craft project, and then projects it on a TV screen so people can see a larger picture of the item in front of them.
Read about dry AMD here.
The cost of glasses may depend on the type and brand. According to review sites and eyeglass brands, the cost of specialized eyeglasses can range anywhere from $200 to $10,000.
The Macular Degeneration Foundation of America provides a list of contacts for people seeking visual aids.
People can talk with an ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision about which glasses might be best for them and how much they cost.
If people have health care insurance, they will need to check if their plan covers the cost of eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Learn more about the cost of glasses here.
According to the BrightFocus Foundation, UV light can be harmful to the eyes. People with AMD need to protect their eyes by looking for sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays.
Bright, visible light may increase your risk of developing AMD. People can wear gray or brown sunglasses to help protect their eyes from blue light.
People can look for sunglasses that carry the UV 400 label. These sunglasses protect against 400 nanometers of ultraviolet rays, which can cause the most damage to the eyes.
Photochromic lenses may be another option for getting between darker areas and sunlight. Photochromic lenses automatically darken when people switch to bright sunlight. When people return home, it will take a few minutes for the glasses to lighten again.
Photochromic lenses do not tint to the same degree inside a car, because the UV light that darkens the glasses will not be able to reach the lenses.
AMD’s specialized glasses may help people achieve the best vision. Glasses may help:
- Zoom in on things to make them easier to see
- Glare reduction
- Increased contrast sensitivity
- Reposition images more clearly in the field of view
Its effectiveness may depend on the severity of AMD and the type of eyeglasses or vision aids people use.
Research in one eyeglass brand, which uses camera technology to help with central vision loss, found that the glasses:
- Significantly improved reading ability in 86% of participants
- Significantly improved facial recognition and object recognition in 3 out of 4 participants
- Provided the greatest benefit for people with the lowest level of visual acuity
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic disease of the eye that results in the loss of central vision. Glasses and vision aids may improve vision for people with AMD and may help them perform daily tasks more easily and safely.
People can also wear sunglasses that protect the eyes from UV damage in bright sunlight.
People can see an ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision to discuss their options and get a prescription for specialized eyeglasses.