OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - Roughly two million Americans live with macular degeneration and cases will increase another million by 2020 due to an aging population, experts say.
While the low vision condition is incurable, treatments might help, according to ophthalmologists.
At 91 years-young, Marilyn McIntire is benefitting from breakthrough technology at Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation, located at University of Nebraska Medical Center.
What we do here is we help them through visual rehabilitation by using various optical devices like telescopic lenses and magnifiers, including electronic magnifiers, says Dr. John Shepherd, medical director of the center.
“So these individuals have permanent reduce vision but it's partial. And they're struggling to use that vision in day to day activities,” Dr. Shepherd says.
Fifteen years ago, doctors diagnosed McIntire with macular degeneration.
The condition causes loss in the center of the field of vision and force patients to rely on peripheral sight.
“My family had eye problems in the past and couldn't see. Lost their sight,” she says.
Weigel Williamson Center, she says, helped her to explore options with her remaining vision.
At first, she used magnified lenses but the progressive condition worsened her vision and made mundane activities, like reading and watching television, even more difficult.
During her last round of visual rehab, an occupational therapist introduced McIntire to a closed-circuit television system. It features a camera which hovers above reading materials and processes the image. Users also can have the option to zoom-in and out, and some models read.
Among other challenges: space definition.
Evy Katz, an occupational therapist at the center, suggests using color contrast and markings to help people navigate around their home.
For rooms with similar colors spread throughout, it makes it easier to identify objects like furniture or electric outlets, Katz says.
Markings are good for pre-setting appliances, like oven temperatures which are usually finely printed.
A lot of times there's simple concepts like that – that people haven't even thought about, Dr. Shepherd says.
According to the center, the goal there is to maximize the vision that's left and let patients keep doing what matters to them.
To learn more about the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation, click here.