Highlight: Is there any way I can learn to better use what vision I have?

It’s Linda and today I have AMD.  Let me explain.  I want to share what I know about Eccentric Viewing which is a way to maximize the peripheral vision that you do have in order to read text and see faces and objects when robbed of one’s central vision.  I do not have AMD, that’s Sue. Because my Dad had it, I know that I have a 50/50 chance of developing it plus I have a few other risk factors. Having gone through the experience of Sue developing AMD & and doing research for the website, it is a much more real possibility that I will develop also AMD.

I’m simulating AMD by putting dots on my eyeglasses where my central vision would be

I decided to do a mostly unscientific experiment. I cut out dots from the top of a sticky note and pasted them on my eyeglasses.  I had to look in the mirror to find the right positions because my blind spots would not in the exact center of my glasses.  My spots are not perfectly round nor are they exactly in the middle because that would be how it is naturally.  The actual blind spot on the macula of the eye would be tiny but I had to represent it as it would appear in my visual field.  At first I thought that this would not be an accurate simulation because my glasses correct my vision but I know Sue and others wear corrective lenses to maximize the remaining vision (more about that below).  I’m sure this is not exactly accurate but I think it’s the best I can do.

Two observations right away: 1) I’ve developed a queasiness that I can’t explain but I’m guessing it is partly a physical reaction to the vision changes but also an emotional reaction to experiencing AMD.  As for the physical issues, I have serious astigmatism so my eye doctor adjusted my glasses and I’m guessing that some of the most extreme corrections are in the peripheral vision areas and that is not where I’m used to looking; 2) I found it hard to take a selfie because to do this, I had to look straight ahead.  I did much better navigating in the house probably because it is familiar.

On to Eccentric Viewing.  AMD robs us of our central vision but the peripheral vision is spared.  You may lose the ability to see text or a person’s face if you look directly at it or them but you should be able to look to the side or above or below the center and make out some of what’s in your peripheral vision.   You can learn ways to maximize the vision that remains.

Eccentric vision is one technique to do this.  It takes some practice but you can teach yourself.  The diagram below defines the Preferred Retinal Locus (PRL) which is the place where your peripheral vision is the best.  For example, as I simulate AMD wearing the dots, at first I moved my head around (not the best way) & I found that with my left eye (right eye closed) my vision is best on the right side of my visual field. With my right eye (left eye closed), my PRL is to the left of my visual field.  That doesn’t help me with both eyes open and looking straight ahead.  If I had AMD in both eyes, I might choose to read with the eye that has the best PRL. Has that been the case for any of you?

Click on the image for an article with more details.

Click here for instructions on how to teach yourself Eccentric Viewing.  As I followed the instructions, I found that it was hard to keep my head still as they instruct.  My first reaction was to move my head left, right, up and down not my eyes.  I’m sure that would change with practice.

Click here for another article about Eccentric Viewing.  It explains some of the science behind the technique.  It also says that the biological task of this way of viewing takes some time. They say it becomes second nature with 6 sessions with a certified low vision specialist and practice at home.

Here are some more articles:

Click here for an article that explains more about PRL (Preferred Retinal Locus).

Click here for an article on Steady Eye Technique (also called Steady Eye Strategy) which basically talks about maximizing the vision you have.

Click here for a great article that talks about both Eccentric Viewing and Steady Eye Technique as they are used together.

Click here for the definition of Eccentric Viewing through the details of a study done on reading with peripheral vision.

My thoughts after several hours of ‘having’ AMD:
  1. I never doubted that Sue was right in that dealing with low vision is tiring.  Everything that I tried to do took much longer.
  2. I was reminded that our ability to see things is not only a function of the eyes but a function of the brain.  When we change input to the eyes, the brain will try to adapt. I had an experience of this when I tried contact lenses where one eye had a prescription for near vision and the other eye for far vision. It didn’t work, my brain did NOT cooperate. They can do that with Lasik surgery but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have tried it with contact lenses first.
  3. I can see that Eccentric Viewing/Steady Eye Strategy is very useful but I can also see that much practice is needed.
  4. I’m going to try to talk to my eye doctor about this but I suspect that making a prescription for eyeglasses AFTER central vision loss is different from when a person can use the whole visual field.  That might mean that wearing eyeglasses that you had before the vision loss is not a good idea.  If you’ve had this experience, please leave a comment or contact me directly.
  5. I can see how important things are like proper lighting and good enlargement of text.  I had to move a lamp closer to my computer and had to move it several times to avoid glare on the computer screen.
  6. I can take the dots off of my eyeglasses for which I am TRULY grateful.  My heart goes out to each and every one of you who cannot.

If you have learned or tried to learn any of these techniques, we’d love to hear about your experiences.  You can post a comment here or contact me directly at light2sight5153@gmail.com


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