2002 Conference Proceedings

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Introduction to the Causes of Vision Loss and the Devices and Technologies Used to Enhance Low Vision

Gretchen B. Van Boemel, Ph.D.
Doheny Eye Institute/University of Southern California Department of Ophthalmology/Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California USA

What is macular degeneration? How does glaucoma cause blindness? What are low vision glasses and how do they differ from regular reading glasses? What is a CCTV? Can low vision aids be successfully purchased through a mail order catalogue? What low vision device is best for an older individual with "wet" macular degeneration who is on a fixed income? What surgical treatments are available for those with vision-threatening eye conditions? These questions and many more will be discussed in this course.

The goal of this course is to provide practical information to those with questions about vision. This course is designed to familiarize the audience with some of the more common types of eye problems that cause vision loss and blindness and the low vision devices that aid in vision rehabilitation. Current medical interventions and future medical research designed to eliminate blinding conditions will be briefly discussed. This course will be of interest to those who work with individuals with vision loss, for those who have with sight-threatening conditions or who are newly blind, as well as for those who want additional information about the eye, diseases of the eye, vision loss and blindness, and low vision rehabilitation.

The course will start with an overview of how the normal eye functions. Diseases of the eye that cause blindness have not changed, but many medical treatment strategies have. Common eye diseases will be described, the mechanisms that cause vision loss in those with specific eye problems will be discussed, as well as the future of surgical and medical treatments for vision loss. Demonstrations of the consequences of specific types of eye problems will be presented. Low vision aids to assist in low vision rehabilitation have changed as well. Misinformation about low vision aids may be costly and may result in purchases that do not improve the quality of life for those with vision loss. For example, a newly visually impaired individual may want a low vision device to enhance daily living skills. But what is the best device to get? How "high tech" should the device be? Should the person purchase a closed-circuit television (CCTV) with an attached monitor or obtain a camera-type device that can attach to his or her own television? Numerous factors may influence the kind of devices an individual should obtain, including the type, severity and prognosis of a particular eye condition, personal needs, and economic conditions. Other factors should be considered, such as warranties, return policies, up-grades, technical support, and training. These issues will be discussed so that each individual attending the course will be able to purchase appropriate devices for specific types of eye conditions. The course will conclude with an overview of the types of devices that are currently available for those with low vision, as well as new devices that are still in development or not yet widely available to the consumer. The section of the course covering low vision aids will be divided into sections based on specific technologies and will go from "low tech" devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, self-focusing binoculars and closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) to "high tech" devices such as computer-enhancement programs, scanners, Braille machines and navigational systems to mention a few. Many of these devices will be on display at the conference.


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