Specialty Glasses for Macular Degeneration

Prescription Lenses for AMD

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition of the eyes involving progressive damage to the macula (an area on the retina responsible for clear central vision). The condition results in low vision.

Low vision is defined as visual impairment resulting in visual acuity of 20/70 or worse. Low vision that is due to eye disease cannot be corrected with regular eyeglasses.

If you have AMD, you may be happy to learn that there are several options for special glasses designed specifically for people with low vision due to macular degeneration.

glasses for macular degeneration
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Low Vision with AMD

AMD may cause a wide range of vision problems—from no problems at all, to a significant impairment of the central vision—for many people with the disorder. Getting the right type of specialty glasses can help.

There are optometrists who specialize in helping people with low vision get glasses that are right for them. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), low vision services are commonly provided for those with a reduced acuity in vision or a deficit in the visual field (that is not correctable with regular glasses, contact lenses, or surgery).

Even those with severe vision loss who have been told nothing can be done to improve their sight can be helped with the practice of low vision rehabilitation, according to the AOA. Getting the right glasses is just one aspect of low vision rehab offered by such specialists.

To find a low vision clinic/specialist in your local area, search online for “low vision optometrist near me.”

Depending on the level of vision loss you’ve experienced and the stage and symptoms of AMD you have, there are several types of glasses that can help improve your vision.

Glasses for Early-Stage AMD

Early-stage AMD involves the presence of several small or medium-sized deposits of drusen (yellow or white spots on the retina), with minimal visual symptoms. Usually, vision loss (such as blind spots or visual distortions) has not yet occurred at this stage of the disease.

At this stage of AMD, if a person requires corrective lenses for normal age-related vision loss from presbyopia (difficulty focusing on objects up close) or other causes, progressive bifocals may be prescribed. Alternatively, your optometrist may suggest using two different pair of eyeglasses, one for reading (near vision) and one for distance vision.

Protective Sunglasses

Gray- or brown-tinted sunglasses or transitional lenses may be recommended by your optometrist to block damaging ultraviolet light from the sun that may worsen macular degeneration. Sunglasses with lenses that block 99% to 100% of harmful ultraviolet light are recommended.

Blue light (present on bright, sunny days) has been found to increase the risk of AMD. Therefore, sunglasses that are brown-tinted may be recommended when the sun is bright.

Polycarbonate Lenses

Glasses can also help keep irritants, such as flying insects, out of your eyes. When a person has an eye condition like macular degeneration, it’s important to guard the eyes from injury, particularly if only one eye has good vision.

A type of lenses made with high-index polycarbonate plastic may be recommended to provide the eyes with additional protection against any type of eye trauma.

Glasses for Intermediate-Stage AMD

In intermediate-stage AMD, the drusen are larger in size, or medium-sized drusen may increase in number. The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a layer of pigmented cells located beneath the retina. Changes in the RPE present during this stage of AMD could result in vision loss.

Symptoms during the intermediate stage may involve some subtle changes in vision, or there may still be no noticeable symptoms at all. Some people begin to see small gray or black spots in the middle of their field of vision; others have trouble with their eyes adjusting from bright to dim light. In addition, decreased contrast sensitivity (DCS) may be present.

Decreased contrast sensitivity may also be present during the early wet stage of AMD.

Yellow-Tinted Glasses

Yellow-tinted glasses can help to improve visual contrast for those with intermediate-stage AMD. Contrast is the difference in light intensity or color that makes an object discernable.

DCS causes a person to experience colors that are more faded and are not as bright or brilliant as usual. Therefore, wearing yellow-tinged glasses may help to correct this contrast deficit.

DCS can make a person unable to clearly see textures; it may also cause problems in detecting slight changes in the environment. For example, it may be difficult to discern the difference between individual stairs or changes in pavement. This can present an increased risk for falls.

DCS can also result in the inability to decipher between different hues of similar colors. Yellow-tinged glasses may help correct these visual deficits in people with AMD.

Anti-Reflective Coating

Anti-reflective technology, which is available for customized macular degeneration glasses, can help to brighten one’s field of vision.

Anti-reflective technology enables the lenses of the glasses to avert excessive light reflection from the glass surface, allowing more light to pass through the lens. Anti-reflective technology can produce images that are much brighter than those of traditional lenses, which aids in reducing the effects of DCS.

Glasses for Late-Stage AMD

Late-stage AMD occurs when the condition progresses to vision loss. This can occur with either the wet or dry form of AMD.

Wet AMD, an advanced stage of macular degeneration, involves leaky blood vessels that cause deterioration of the macula (an area in the middle of the retina that is involved in clear central vision). The wet form of AMD progresses much more quickly than the dry form.

Symptoms of late-stage AMD include a loss of central vision. Objects in the middle of the line of vision may appear distorted or blurry, or may not be visible at all. Usually, objects in the peripheral field (side vision) are still visible, but it may be difficult to interpret what they are.

During this stage of the disease, a person may see visual distortions (lines that are broken or curve instead of appearing straight). Other symptoms may include large gray or black spots in the central field of vision or the inability to recognize faces (even though the peripheral vision is still working).

Whether a person has vision loss from advanced wet or dry AMD, special glasses can help improve vision. For reading, these glasses may involve magnification and a built-in prism. For distance sight, a “bioptic” telescope may be employed. A bioptic telescope is a small telescope mounted on a person’s glasses to enable a person with advanced AMD to see objects more clearly from a distance.

Prismatic Lenses

Prismatic lenses, sometimes referred to as built-in prism glasses, are used in the advanced stage of macular degeneration (involving central vision loss). Prism-based lenses cause a deviation in the light rays that enter the eye. This enables the light rays to avoid the macular region that has deteriorated from AMD.

Although prismatic lenses do not eliminate the blind spots commonly experienced in those with AMD, the lenses can help to reduce the area of low vision, making the blind spot smaller.

Magnification Glasses

Magnification glasses can include those that magnify images, designed for distance vision. There are also special magnification glasses that help people with AMD see objects close up—for example, enlarging reading text for near vision.

Distance-vision glasses are special binocular-type lenses, referred to as “bioptic telescopes,” that are mounted onto the lenses of your glasses to help improve central vision for items that are far away. The level of magnification of the lenses can be adjusted to your specific needs.

It’s important to note that magnification glasses can help to reduce blind spots and distortions caused by macular degeneration, but they cannot eliminate these vision problems altogether.

A Word From Verywell

If you are interested in learning more about which glasses for macular degeneration might be right for you, be sure to speak to a low vision specialist—an optometrist who specializes in prescribing glasses for people with low vision. These specialists can evaluate your current symptoms and stage of AMD and write a prescription for the specialty glasses that are right for you.

In addition, keep in mind that when it comes to AMD, early detection is the key to slowing down the progression of the disease and receiving the most effective treatment for the symptoms you are experiencing.

Glasses for macular degeneration can help to manage your symptoms, but they can’t cure your disease. Always follow your ophthalmologist’s advice regarding regular eye exams and screenings.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vision Aware. Our readers want to know: What is the difference between low vision and legal blindness?

  2. American Optometric Association. Low vision services.

  3. Dunaief J. Specialty glasses for macular degeneration. Bright Focus Foundation.

  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (NCBI): Informed Health.org. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Overview.

  5. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Ultra-violet and blue light aggravate macular degeneration.

  6. Nelson H. Beyond cool: Which sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays? Intermountain Healthcare.

  7. Taggart M. Retinal pigment epithelium: The eye’s first line of defense against macular degeneration. Bright Focus Foundation.

  8.  Low Vision Specialists. Macular degeneration. Special glasses for those suffering from macular degeneration.

By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.