Macular Degeneration and Me

Low Vision and High Hope


Most of you know what it’s like to experience bright sun glancing off the metal parts of a car or the glare of headlights on a rainy evening.  It’s uncomfortable and distracting.  But when you have macular degeneration glare is a frightening experience.  When the eye is exposed to glare, pupils constrict and limit the amount of natural light transmitted to the retina, which in turn, limits what you can see.  Glare also reduces contrast, making it difficult to do simple things like drive, work on the computer or even walk around outside.  Recently I experienced an actual white out when the morning sun on the lake blinded me as I was walking down stairs.  Luckily someone was walking with me and made sure I didn’t fall.

Eye care professionals recommend polarized sunglass lenses that reduce or eliminate both UVA and UVB rays.  Recent reports on sun damage to eyes suggest that it is as important to wear sunglasses as it is to wear sunblock.

There are a number of companies that make excellent and affordable sunglasses that fit over your prescription glasses. They are available to fit the needs of people with various vision impairments, including macular degeneration.  They manage the light that reaches the eyes to maximize vision, enhance contrast and manage various bright and cloudy conditions.

My first foray into the world of this type of sunglass did not go very well.  I went to a vision care store and the technician helping me made a couple of suggestions.  We even went outside to check out how much better glare could be controlled.  The glasses were fashionable and reasonable.  As I was driving home I came to a traffic light and was surprised that all three lights were dark – I pushed up the sunglasses and amazingly there was a red light – the glasses had filtered out the color red.  That’s pretty darn dangerous I thought.

I sent off an email to the manufacturer and in the return message I learned that the technician had not tested me properly for the right filter.  Lucky for me I lost the glasses only a few days later.

BE PRO-ACTIVE:  I’m suggesting that you really research different types of products available and work with an eye care professional to help you make the right choices.   I worked with my Occupational Therapist and we tested many features and filters including walking around outside, checking glare, reading signs, checking color spectrum, sizing, etc.

I selected a company called Solar Shield because the glasses fit very well over my prescription glasses, they have wrap-around protection including side shields that don’t leak light (watch out for that), and advanced UV protection that completely isolates the eyes from the elements.  I purchased two sets:  one has a dark grey polarized lens that works well in high glare conditions.  The other has a yellow lens that works very well in low light conditions – it increases contrast and works very well on rainy days.

If you are not wearing the best in protective sunglasses and you have macular degeneration please check out all the possibilities.  You will be glad you did.



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