Age related macular degeneration and visual disability

John B. Christoforidis, Nicola Tecce, Roberto dell'Omo, Rodolfo Mastropasqua, Marco Verolino, Ciro Costagliola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of central blindness or low vision among the elderly in industrialized countries. AMD is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Among modifiable environmental risk factors, cigarette smoking has been associated with both the dry and wet forms of AMD and may increase the likelihood of worsening pre-existing AMD. Despite advances, the treatment of AMD has limitations and affected patients are often referred for low vision rehabilitation to help them cope with their remaining eyesight. The characteristic visual impairment for both forms of AMD is loss of central vision (central scotoma). This loss results in severe difficulties with reading that may be only partly compensated by magnifying glasses or screen-projection devices. The loss of central vision associated with the disease has a profound impact on patient quality of life. With progressive central visual loss, patients lose their ability to perform the more complex activities of daily living. Common vision aids include low vision filters, magnifiers, telescopes and electronic aids. Low vision rehabilitation (LVR) is a new subspecialty emerging from the traditional fields of ophthalmology, optometry, occupational therapy, and sociology, with an ever-increasing impact on the usual concepts of research, education, and services for visually impaired patients. Relatively few ophthalmologists practise LVR and fewer still routinely use prismatic image relocation (IR) in AMD patients. IR is a method of stabilizing oculomotor functions with the purpose of promoting better function of preferred retinal loci (PRLs). The aim of vision rehabilitation therapy consists in the achievement of techniques designed to improve PRL usage. The use of PRLs to compensate for diseased foveae has offered hope to these patients in regaining some function. However, in a recently published meta-analysis, prism spectacles were found to be unlikely to be of substantial benefit in people with age-related macular degeneration. Prescription filters are one of the most beneficial visual aids for people with macular degeneration. In principle, one aims both at reducing short-wavelength light to reduce glare and at identifying light with specific wavelengths (colours) preferred by the patient for viewing. In both instances, such interventions result in apparent improved contrast sensitivity and better visual acuity. Although specific tests are performed to determine the best colour, tint, lens material, and type of frame for the patient's need, no scientific protocol has been developed so far to assist in prescribing tinted or selective transmission lenses. Magnifying optical lenses are available in a wide range of dioptric powers and are made from materials that correct for weight (plastic), thickness (high index), spherical aberrations (aspherical), and variable light intensities (photochromatic). These lenses can be used as loose lenses, mounted on optical frames, or used with a wide variety of attachments. As the dioptric power of plus lenses increases, the viewing distance of the target decreases, hence their usefulness mainly for tasks requiring near resolution acuity, like reading. Magnification can also be achieved with the use of telescopic devices that are built of two or more plus and (or) minus (minifying) optical lenses. Normal resolution acuity levels can be achieved with these devices for all viewing distances. Therefore, all telescopic devices are useful only for stationary patient tasks that do not require mobility and orientation. Electronic magnification has the great advantage over plus lenses of producing an acuity reserve enabling reading skills for almost all levels of visual acuity. The additional benefit provided is preservation of binocularity, even at high levels of visual disparity between the two eyes. Vision rehabilitation can help patients to maximize their remaining vision and adapt to activities of daily living. The support of the patient's social network is critical to patient's wellbeing as patients adjust to being partially sighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Drug Targets
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Age related macular degeneration
  • Epidemiology
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Prescription filters
  • Risk factors
  • Telescopes and electronic aids
  • Visual disability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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