Macular degeneration is a condition that affects your central vision. This can make it difficult to read, drive, and look at details.
Your macula is a part of your retina that is responsible for your central vision. Macular degeneration leads to partial vision loss. Often, you’ll see blank or blurry areas in the center of your vision.
Although most cases of macular degeneration can’t be treated or reversed, specialty eyeglasses for macular degeneration might help improve your vision.
Eyeglasses can help you make the most of your vision. Although glasses can’t completely correct vision loss in people with macular degeneration, they can maximize the vision you have. This can make it easier for you to do day-to-day activities that require you to see detail.
Sunglasses can also be helpful, as they can prevent further damage to your eyes. Sunglasses can’t entirely stop your eyesight from deteriorating, but they can help you avoid sun damage, which can worsen your vision.
If you have macular degeneration, an optometrist or ophthalmologist might advise you to use eyeglasses that enhance the vision you have left.
This is especially important if you have macular degeneration in one eye — by supporting your vision in the unaffected eye, glasses can dramatically improve your quality of life.
Bifocal glasses contain two lens prescriptions in one. They are a convenient alternative to using two different sets of glasses.
One part of the glass allows you to see distant objects, while the smaller part of the glass allows you to see closer objects (like the words on a page or your cellphone).
Bifocal glasses can’t reverse or fix macular degeneration but, if you need them because your eyesight has deteriorated from other age-related conditions, it’s wise to use them. They can help you make the most of the vision you still have.
In early- and intermediate-stage age-related macular degeneration, you might experience reduced contrast sensitivity, which means it’s difficult to see contrasts in similar colors. This can make it difficult to see the steps on a set of stairs or the texture of a fabric, for example.
Yellow-tinted glasses can make it easier to perceive color contrasts, according to a 2018 study. The study looked at 110 people with decreased contrast sensitivity and found that yellow filters made a significant improvement in their vision.
Yellow-tinted glasses reduce the amount of light that gets into the eye. For this reason, it is best to avoid using them at night and in low lighting, especially when you’re driving.
Telescopic glasses can help by improving your distance vision so that you can see far-away objects more clearly. These are ideal for people with late-stage age-related macular degeneration who are having problems with distance vision.
Magnifying glasses assist by improving your near vision. If you find it hard to focus on objects close to you, magnifying glasses might help. They only magnify objects that are close to your eyes, though, and as such, they aren’t ideal for improving distance vision.
Certain enhancements can improve your glasses, making them more comfortable and protective for your eyes. This can help improve your vision and prevent further eye damage.
High-powered lenses magnify objects a great deal. They are ideal for people who need strong prescription lenses as they are thin and light, which means you won’t need very thick, heavy glasses in order to see. This is ideal for people with age-related macular degeneration who also need prescription lenses.
Polycarbonate is a specific kind of plastic. If you have macular degeneration, polycarbonate lenses might be a wise choice for you.
Polycarbonate lenses have a range of benefits:
- they can withstand more impact than regular lenses, making them more durable
- they’re lightweight
- they’re thinner than regular lenses
- they block out harmful UV rays without needing extra coating
Because they’re durable, they’re ideal for people who are active or often play sports.
Anti-glare or anti-reflective coating
Anti-glare or anti-reflective coating can be applied to your glasses to remove glare from light. Removing unnecessary reflection can help you see more clearly.
An anti-glare or anti-reflective coating can also have a protective effect. Protecting your remaining eyesight from further damage is important.
By removing glare, these coatings can help reduce eyestrain. This is especially helpful if you often look at a computer or phone screen.
High-quality sunglasses can protect your eyes from further damage. Although we might not always think about protecting our eyes from the sun, UV light can severely affect eye health, possibly leading to macular degeneration, cataracts, and other conditions.
In some cases, non-lens vision aids can help people with macular degeneration. These aids can help you see objects more clearly and enhance your quality of life.
Like magnifying glasses, magnifying lenses help you see close objects more clearly. Magnifying lenses differ as they’re handheld objects as opposed to a pair of glasses. You can also get standing magnifying lenses.
Binoculars or monoculars
Binoculars and monoculars can help you see far-away objects with one or both eyes. These can be helpful when visiting the cinema, birdwatching, or admiring scenery.
Binoculars and monoculars can help people with macular degeneration make the most of their vision. However, they’re more suitable for those with early-stage macular degeneration, as they’re more helpful if you still have most of your central vision.
Typoscopes can make reading easier for people with low vision, including those with macular degeneration.
Typoscopes are simple pieces of black plastic or paper with a small cutout opening. It helps your eyes focus on reading one line at a time. They can also help you write.
Typoscopes are likely more helpful for people with early-stage age-related macular degeneration because you’ll still need most of your central vision to read or write using a typoscope.
Closed-circuit television magnifiers
Video or closed-circuit television magnifiers can help people with low vision view objects, like a book or photographs, more clearly. It magnifies the object and projects it onto a television so that you can see it in more detail.
The American Foundation for the Blind has a comprehensive list of video magnifiers and closed-circuit television systems that could help you. You can choose a handheld or standing magnifier based on your own needs.
Eyeglasses for macular degeneration can range in price depending on:
- the nature of your prescription
- whether you opt for eyeglass enhancements
- the brand and type of your glasses frames
Websites state that the above lenses can cost anywhere between $200 and $9,000.
If you have insurance, check your policy to see whether your insurer will pay for eyeglasses. Most insurance plans cover routine checkups and offer an allowance for prescription lenses.
The Medicare website explains that Part B (medical insurance) can pay for certain diagnostic tests and treatments if you have age-related macular degeneration. However, Original Medicare does not cover routine vision exams or glasses.
Some assistance programs might be able to help you out with the costs of eye tests, lenses, and other vision aids. For example:
- EyeCare America provides free and lower-cost eye exams for qualified U.S. citizens 65 and older who have not seen an ophthalmologist in the last 3 years.
- New Eyes provides single or lined bifocal lenses at no cost to those who are unable to purchase glasses themselves.
- The Chronic Disease Fund provides financial assistance for people with age-related macular degeneration.
You can also ask an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or optician if they’re aware of any local financial assistance initiatives.
Whether you have wet age-related macular degeneration or dry age-related macular degeneration, losing some of your vision can impact your day-to-day life.
Certain vision aids and eyeglasses for macular degeneration can help you make the most of your eyesight and enable you to manage daily tasks more easily. Speak with an ophthalmologist or optometrist about whether eyeglasses will be suitable for you.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.