Low-Vision Victories

Advanced magnifiers expand vision for those with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The practice of G. Timothy Petito, OD, is dedicated to the treatment of people with low vision. Many people define low vision in terms of decreased sharpness or visual field, but Dr. Petito uses a broader definition.

Photo by Fred Bellet.

Dr. Petito strongly recommends The Magnification Company’s
vast array of video magnifiers.

“In reality, low vision affects anyone who has a condition that makes their vision inadequate for doing the tasks they like to do, especially activities of daily living,” he asserts.
The doctor adds that there are a wide range of diseases that can lead to low vision.
“The most prevalent cause is age-related macular degeneration, or AMD,” Dr. Petito notes. “Other causes include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, optic nerve diseases, neurological diseases such as stroke, cerebrovascular accidents, and occasionally, retinal detachments.
“Treatment for low vision depends on the disease involved and the functional effects of that disease. For AMD, a blind spot develops in the center of people’s vision. In this case, whenever they look at something, the object they’re looking at disappears or becomes fragmented or blurred to the point they can’t identify it.”
This situation makes reading difficult and driving difficult or impossible, the doctor continues. Even when watching television, a good portion of the TV image is missing. This significantly decreases the visual benefits of looking at the TV. For people with problems like these, Dr. Petito has a few suggestions to help improve their visual abilities.
“For these individuals, there are really two pieces to the puzzle,” he suggests. “One is to teach them to look at the area that still works around the blind spot. The second is to magnify whatever they’re looking at so that the area is large enough to identify the object, whether it’s a letter, word or person.”Product graphics courtesy of The Magnification Company.
Treating people with low vision is done on a continuum of magnification, says Dr. Petito. If a small amount of magnification is necessary, a low-vision specialist will begin with either standard or bifocal, or single-vision, stronger-than-normal reading glasses.
“When the person holds the material to read closer by moving it in, they achieve what’s called relative magnification,” Dr. Petito describes. “If a person normally reads at sixteen inches, and I have them move it up to eight inches, we’ve effectively doubled the size of the print.”
There are limitations to this approach, as there are to the next step in the continuum, which is magnification with telescopes or special magnifying glasses that allow the person to bring things very close.
In both cases, the visual field the person gets to view is very limited. The person’s desired tasks and the amount of vision affected by the disease help determine whether a telescope is a viable option.
“Once we get past strong magnifying glasses and telescopes, we use what are called electro-optical devices,” Dr. Petito reports. “These include closed-circuit TVs, and desk-mounted, head-mounted and portable video magnifiers.
“With lens-based magnification, the distance of the object to view has to change or the field of vision has to change. Video magnifiers manipulate the images electronically. With these devices, we can magnify things and still have a pretty good field of vision.
“Video magnifiers work best when people require too much magnification for a telescope and too close a working distance for a strong lens, either handheld or worn. Therefore, people with smaller visual deficits get lens-based magnification, and those with more serious deficits go into the electro-optical devices.”
For people needing video magnification, Dr. Petito often suggests they contact Bob Schrepfer, president of The Magnification Company in St. Petersburg. The Magnification Company has provided magnifying assessments, training and lectures to people with vision issues for more than 30 years. The company offers sales and services throughout Florida.

Multiple Magnifiers

AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss, and it affects more than ten million Americans. AMD is the progressive deterioration of the central part of the eye’s retina, called the macula. With AMD, people slowly lose their central vision.
“AMD is like putting Vaseline® in the center of both lenses of a pair of glasses,” observes Bob. “People will see where their lenses are smeared, and only the periphery of the glasses are clear. There will be a void in the center. It’s very challenging to see things with that limited amount of vision.”
Product graphics courtesy of The Magnification Company. At The Magnification Company, Bob and his team offer a complete line of video magnifiers for people with AMD, from handheld models to wearable devices. In the wearable category, The Magnification Company carries three models. The model that’s most effective depends on the needs of the individual.
“We carry the IrisVision®, which has been out for about a year and a half and currently has the largest field of view at seventy degrees, and the NuEyes®, which has been out for about two and a half years but has a limited field of view. The newest is the AceSight®. Each of these wearables has its specific uses and limitations based on weight, magnification range, ease of use and battery life.
“The AceSight is an improvement over the IrisVision. It offers a little more magnification, is a little lighter in weight on the face and allows the wearer to walk around with a bit more comfort and ease.”
Another commonly used type of magnifier is the desktop electronic magnifier, or closed-circuit television (CCTV), such as the Mezzo®. The monitors on these desktop models range from 16 to 24 inches. There’s a control dial that can increase the magnification of the object being viewed. It ranges from one to 100 times magnification.Product graphics courtesy of The Magnification Company.
“There are also the handheld electronic magnifiers, including the SmartLux®,” offers Bob. “People can take the handheld devices to restaurants, the grocery store, anywhere they need to see. The SmartLux incorporates a monitor and a camera just like the desktop magnifiers, but in a handheld version.
“The screen size of the handheld models ranges anywhere from three to about thirteen inches, giving them full portability. A conventional handheld only offers one power of magnification, and the smaller it gets, the smaller the field of view. This can make it difficult for someone with low vision to read with comprehension because they’ll only be able to read a few letters or numbers at one time.”

The Best Choice

Many people with AMD and other vision-stealing disorders can benefit from today’s high-tech video magnifiers. Dr. Petito is pleased with the variety of products available at The Magnification Company, and the service he receives from Bob and his team.
“The Magnification Company does a lot with the electro-optical devices and video magnification,” he confirms. “For people who require this level of magnification, it’s really the only option.”
Dr. Petito knows that video magnifiers can help people with low vision maintain their visual independence. They help people read small print so they can write checks, address envelopes and sign their names on forms. They can also see faces, watch TV and do most anything else except drive. He gladly recommends them for anyone with low vision.
“Many of those who can get along with lens-based magnification are much more efficient with video magnification, so we often recommend it to them,” states Dr. Petito. “The Magnification Company is the group I turn to when I need video magnification.”

Print This Article
    • The Magnification Company

      Envision a bigger, brighter world The Magnification Company brings you the latest & most effective magnifying devices and low-vision services to help you achieve & maintain your visual independence. ... Read More

    • Bob Schrepfer

      Bob Schrepfer, owner and president of The Magnification Company has dedicated more than 30 years to helping those with low vision regain their independence with high-powered magnifying devices. He also offers entertaining and informati... Read More