Learning to Live with Macular Degeneration

Visual Hallucinations or Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Visual hallucinations or Charles Bonnet syndrome are common in people with advanced macular degeneration. People see detailed images of animals, buildings, people, or distinct patterns or shapes that are not present. This happens more often in the evening or with dim lighting conditions. These hallucinations can be very alarming especially for family members as they may think that their loved one is developing a mental illness. These hallucinations usually subside over a year or two. This is similar to someone who has lost a limb and has phantom sensations of the limb still being present.

The hallucinations can be helped by turning on lights, turning on a TV or staring at a real object for several minutes.

Vision Rehabilitation

Vision loss from macular degeneration can have significant effect on a person’s lifestyle and independence. The vision may get to the point of not being able to drive, watch TV, or read.

What Services are Available?

  • Lighthouse for the Blind is a great organization that helps people with visual impairment. They provide all kinds of services and training.
  • Eye doctors’ offices that special or provide low vision services
  • State provided services
  • Occupational therapist, counselors, social workers, and home health service that provide vision assistance.
  • Some of the organizations provide free services. Medicare may cover most or all of a person’s occupational therapy.

What Things are Available to Help You?

Magnifiers

There are variety of magnifying glasses available. There ones that you hold, ones that you lay on the top of what you are reading, and one that can hang around your neck to free both hands.

Magnifiers
Magnifiers

Telescopic Glasses

There are glasses that have miniature telescopes placed on the glasses that provide magnification. The limitation of these is the width of vision that they provide.

Telescopic Glasses

Video Magnifiers

There are computerized scanners that will project print on a screen in which you can the size of the print. Try large print books and audio books.

Video Magnifiers

Computers

You can change the size of the font on the computer, change the brightness, and contrast to improve what you can see. There are computer programs that will read print to use either through a scanner or the print on the computer. One program is called jaws.

Electronics

There are a variety of electronic devices that can help. Tablets and smart phones. There are many apps now available for people with vision impairment. There are talking watches, clocks, calculators, weight scales, and others.

Home Solutions

Home appliances can be modified such as making things larger or tactile pieces can be used to mark settings. Thermostats with voice can be installed. Special telephones and radios are available. You can use higher intensity lights. Try a bright halogen light for reading.

Training

Training for completing every day activities is available. These are available through home health services, Lighthouse for the Blind, and state agencies.

Summary

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of permanent blindness in the United States in people over age 65. For many people they may have the dry form of macular degeneration that may take many years before they are become visually impaired. Many people may lose some vision but not get to the point of not seeing well. About ten to fifteen percent of people with macular degeneration will develop the wet type and will need treatment.

If you have macular degeneration, you need to take an AREDS formula supplement, eat a healthy diet with lots of dark green vegetables and oily fish, exercise, do not smoke, and control you blood pressure. Lookat an Amsler grid everyday and if you notice any change in the grid call your eye doctor immediately.

You can call Medicare to see if you are eligible for occupational therapy covered by Medicare. The phone number is 1-800-633-4227. There are many eye doctor’s offices that provide assistance and training for people with low vision. The Lighthouse for the Blind is a great organization that provides help.

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The Cataract & Refractive
Institute of Florida

James E. Croley III, M.D.

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