Specialty Glasses for Macular Degeneration

Prescription Lenses for AMD

In This Article

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

Low vision is an impairment in vision caused by eye disease, resulting in visual acuity of 20/70 (or poorer). Low vision 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.

Low Vision With AMD

Although 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 those with low vision to get glasses that are right for them. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association, 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).

The American Optometric Association explains that 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. 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.”

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

Glasses for Early-Stage AMD

Early-stage AMD involves medium-sized deposits of drusen (yellow or white spots on the retina) but, usually no other signs of AMD at this stage. Usually, vision loss (such as blind spots or visual distortions) has not yet occurred at this stage of the disease.

If a person requires corrective lenses (for normal age-related vision loss such as presbyopia [difficulty focusing on objects up close] or other causes) at this stage of AMD, progressive bifocals may be prescribed or perhaps two different pair of eyeglasses will be recommended, 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 (UV) light (from the sun) that may worsen macular degeneration. Sunglasses with lenses that block 99% to 100% of harmful ultraviolet (UV) 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 may also be protective in keeping objects (such as flying insects) out of your eyes. When a person has an eye condition, such as macular degeneration, it’s important to guard the eyes from injury (particularly when only one eye has good vision).

A type of lenses called polycarbonate lenses may be recommended to provide the good eye 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 cells that is pigmented, located beneath the retina. (RPE) changes that are 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 be no noticeable symptoms at all yet. 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.

Decreased contrast sensitivity causes a person to experience colors that are more faded and are not as bright or brilliant as they usually appear. 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 contrasts in stairs or pavement. This can present an increased risk for falls.

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

Anti-Reflective Coating

Anti-reflective technology, available for customized macular degeneration glasses, can help with decreased contrast sensitivity because this technology can help to brighten up one’s field of vision.

Anti-reflective technology works because it 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.

Glasses for Late-Stage AMD

Late-stage AMD occurs when the condition progresses to symptoms of vision loss. This can occur either from the wet form of AMD or dry AMD that has resulted in vision loss.

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). If a person has the wet form of AMD, this type of macular degeneration progresses much faster than the dry form.

Symptoms of late-stage AMD include a loss of central vision that has progressed from objects that appear distorted or blurry, to objects in the middle of the line of vision that cannot be seen 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 that 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 may be employed to help improve vision. When 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.

People with advanced AMD, either from the wet form, in which the retina is invaded by leaky new blood vessels, or geographic atrophy in advanced dry AMD, can often see better with special glasses. For reading, the specialty glasses will often have very high magnification and a built-in prism to enhance a person's vision.

Prismatic Lenses

Prismatic lenses, sometimes referred to as built-in prism glasses, are for 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 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, or there are also special magnification glasses that help people with AMD see objects close up (such as microscopes that enlarge 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 of items that are far away.

The level of magnification of the lenses can be adjusted to the specific needs of the person with AMD. According to the experts at Low Vision Specialists, “With these low vision, macular degeneration glasses vision is not only clearer, but magnified and more understandable.”

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.

Also, keep in mind that when it comes to AMD, early detection is the key to slowing down the progression of the disease, and to receive 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.

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Article 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.
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