Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes a loss of central vision. Specialized glasses may help people with macular degeneration maximize their vision and help them carry out everyday tasks.
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a condition where 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 occurs due to a breakdown of cells within the macula, and vision loss occurs gradually. Wet AMD occurs due to the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye and results in more rapid vision loss.
A range of specialized glasses and vision aids is available to help people with AMD see more clearly with their near and distant vision.
This article looks at the type of glasses available for helping with AMD, other vision aids that may help, potential costs, and outlook.
Specialized glasses may help people with different stages of AMD make the most of their vision and help protect the eyes from further damage.
There are various types of glasses available for people with AMD, including:
Bifocal glasses may help improve distance and near vision as the lenses are split horizontally into different sections. The lower section allows people to see for reading, while the top section improves distance vision.
Yellow tinted glasses
In the early stages of AMD, people may have drusen, which are deposits of tissue, in the retina. This can affect vision, and people may experience difficulty adjusting to dim lighting after being in bright light. They may also experience reduced contrast sensitivity, which means it is more difficult to recognize textures or contrasts in their surroundings, such as a rug on the floor, the steps of stairs, or the difference between two similar colors next to each other.
Yellow tinted glasses contain yellow-colored 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 in 110 people with low vision and decreased contrast sensitivity. The researchers found a significant improvement in contrast sensitivity using yellow filters.
People should avoid wearing yellow-tinted glasses at night, particularly while driving, as they reduce the amount of light getting to the eye and could pose a danger.
High powered lenses
People with advanced AMD may benefit from high powered 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 bioptic telescope to help improve distance vision. A small telescope system attaches to the glasses, helping people see objects further away in the distance. Some states permit people to use these while driving.
Magnifying glasses are thicker than regular glasses. Magnifying glasses magnify objects close to the eyes, so they are only suitable for improving near vision.
Glasses can also help protect the eyes against irritants or injury. Glasses with polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant, so they do not shatter like other materials. If people still have good vision in one eye, polycarbonate glasses may help protect the eye from any trauma.
Polycarbonate lenses also provide extra protection against anything flying into the eye, such as insects.
Anti-glare filters or antireflective coating
Macular degeneration may make the eyes more sensitive to light, and glare from bright light may cause additional vision problems.
Choosing glasses with an antireflective coating may help reduce glare. People can also use anti-glare filters, which fit over the top of regular glasses and can help shield the eyes.
Other vision aids that may help people with AMD include:
- Magnifying lenses: These work in a similar way to magnifying glasses, but are handheld or standing devices instead of glasses. Magnifying devices may work over longer distances than magnifying glasses.
- Binoculars or monoculars: People can use binoculars for both eyes to help see objects in the distance, such as when reading signs or seeing a theatre show. People can use a monocular for one eye to help with near and distance vision.
- Typoscopes: Typoscopes are guides that help with reading or writing. They are sheets of black card or plastic with holes cut out to exclude any distracting glare or information when looking at a specific area on a screen, book, or newspaper.
- Closed-circuit television magnifiers: A camera magnifies an object, such as a book or craft project, then displays it on a television screen so people can see a larger image of the object in front of them.
The cost of glasses may depend on the type and brand. According to review sites and eyewear brands, the cost of specialized glasses may range anywhere from $200–10,000.
The American Macular Degeneration Foundation provides a list of contacts for people seeking vision aids.
People can talk with an eye doctor specializing in low vision about which glasses may be best for them and how much they may cost.
If people have healthcare insurance, they will need to check whether their plan covers the cost of eyeglasses or contact lenses.
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 the risk of AMD. People can wear gray or brown tinted sunglasses to help protect their eyes against blue light.
People can look for sunglasses with the label UV 400. These protect against 400 nanometers of UV radiation, which can cause the most harm to the eyes.
Photochromic lenses may be another option for moving between darker areas and sunlight. Photochromic lenses automatically become darker when people move into bright sunlight. When people return indoors, the glasses will take a few minutes to lighten again.
Photochromic lenses do not tint to the same extent inside a vehicle, though, as the UV light that makes the glasses darken will not be able to reach the lenses.
Specialized glasses for AMD may help make the best of people’s vision. Glasses may help:
- magnify objects to make them easier to see
- reduce glare
- increase contrast sensitivity
- reposition images more clearly within the field of vision
Their effectiveness may depend on the severity of AMD and the type of glasses or vision aids people use.
Research into one brand of glasses, which uses camera technology to assist with central vision loss, found the glasses:
- significantly improved reading ability in 86% of participants
- significantly improved facial recognition and identification of objects 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 eye disease that causes the loss of central vision. Glasses and vision aids may help improve vision for people with AMD and may help them carry out everyday tasks more easily and safely.
People can also wear sunglasses that protect the eyes from being damaged by UV in bright sunlight.
People can consult an eye doctor specializing in low vision to discuss their options and get a prescription for specialized glasses.