How to use low vision spectacles with more success

Many of our patients are prescribed low vision spectacles to enable them to have an easier time doing spot reading. Unfortunately, many people who are prescribed spectacles do not know the correct way to use them causing them great frustration and limited or no use of a costly device.

The first challenge is that many patients think that these spectacles will allow them to read with the same degree of success as they did before they lost a significant amount of vision. Spectacles can magnify images and text but not to the extent that they can totally compensate for profound vision loss. Making each word bigger makes seeing that word easier but harder to read whole phrases. The process of reading becomes much slower. 

The next challenge is that most patients do not use the devices correctly. Spectacles are much more powerful than eyeglasses so you have to hold the reading matter much closer. In fact, the more powerful the magnifier, the closer the reading matter has to be held to the face. Holding reading matter closer than 12-14 inches from the face is uncustomary and few patients hold the reading matter as close to the face as they should. Simply put, holding the reading too far away means that the spectacles do not work. We teach patients how to position reading materials so that it works best for them within their environment. This may include using a clipboard or reading stand, pillows, or other materials to create a better setting for reading with good body mechanics.   As always, our usual recommendation to use good lighting that is positioned properly allows patients to use their devices much more effectively. Good desk or gooseneck lamps with the appropriate bulbs are very helpful. We teach patients to use the lamps and aim the light beam to shine on the reading matter from the side so that the light does not bounce back glare to the patient.

Spectacles are a powerful and effective tool for low vision patients to do spot reading. The key is knowing how to use them effectively.