Low Vision Therapy for Macular Degeneration: Alice's Story

At 87, Alice was living a full life, including teaching exercise classes and participating in devotionals at the retirement community where she lived. But age-related macular degeneration began to interfere. It was getting hard to read her mail, fill out forms or use the buttons on the microwave accurately. In addition, she was finding excuses not to read out loud at the devotionals – the text seemed too small and the beginning letters on each line were blurry.
Alice’s ophthalmologist, Robert P. Tucker III, MD, FACS, found age-related macular degeneration had caused a scotoma, or hole in her vision. He referred her to Gwinnett SportsRehab and its Low Vision Therapy Program.

During her initial evaluation, the therapist at Gwinnett SportsRehab found her reading acuity was 20/96 – equivalent to reading standard print text at 20 words per minute. The occupational therapy team worked to help Alice find her preferred retinal location (PRL), or the sweet spot for her retina, which the brain uses to compensate when a scotoma develops. Treatment focused on teaching her exercises to learn to utilize this PRL during activities such as reading and writing. A home visit was made, too, with the therapist recommending changes in lighting, contrast and background patterns.

By the end of therapy, Alice’s reading acuity had made a remarkable gain to 20/44 – equivalent to reading standard print text at 90 words per minute. She was again comfortable reading the devotionals aloud. Alice no longer felt stress and anxiety about reading the mail, writing letters, managing her finances or other visual tasks. With raised dots and contrasting tape on the microwave buttons, she could safely heat food again.
At Gwinnett SportsRehab, the occupational therapists are specialty-trained in helping people experiencing low vision, whether from macular degeneration, diabetes or glaucoma.
To learn more about low vision therapy, call 678-312-2803 or visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/sportsrehab.

*The story is true, although the name is a pseudonym.


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