Coping with Macular Degeneration using iPhones, iPads and Video Games

Coping with Macular Degeneration using iPhones, iPads and Video Games

Being challenged by any vision problem is extremely tough. However, with vision research and technology on the rise there are many remedies available today than ever before with more to come. Some remedies include cutting edge conventional applications that significantly reduce or even cure certain conditions and diseases, while others help one cope while research catches up.

It turns out that as some of us feel the speed of cell phone and computer technology might be dwarfing our non-digital life, it just may have some merits beyond self indulgence and escapism after all.

Macular degeneration is one disease that is rapidly being focused on due to its high incidence of vision loss. According to the National Eye Institute, unless it is significantly slowed or cured, age related macular degeneration (AMD) will affect 5.4 million US residents by 2050 with over 13 million being afflicted by some type of vision impairment.

While waiting for groundbreaking research to make it to AMD patients, using an iPhone, iPad or even playing video games prove to be significant tools in coping with macular degeneration.

Regaining Independence 

“I was really down and out. It was really scary, and I felt helpless.”

These are the words of a woman struggling with the slow loss of her eyesight as a result of AMD. Ursula Rucki was recently interviewed by TAPinto, a Denville, New Jersey health and wellness news e-zine for the article,

‘iPhone/iPad Training for Adults With Vision Loss Unlocks Independence’.

Ms. Rucki, a school teacher, began experiencing symptoms of AMD at age 50 which weakened her vision and forced retirement. She discovered a technology class near her home at the Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey (formerly NJ Foundation for the Blind) and it almost immediately changed how she management her AMDn.

She completed the 13-week program, described as a “very structured curriculum,” studying in detail, cell phone and computer technology. According to Ms. Rucki she now, “listens to books, sends texts and emails to family members and friends, and plays Words With Friends with her grandson in Connecticut. The iPhone even corrects her German when she writes to relatives in Germany. She’s also learned to use apps that identify the contents of cans and count the bills in her wallet.”

You can research if there may be a local class or organization near your home which may help you become more digitally savvy for a whole new independence while living with AMD.

iPad Testing

More ophthalmologists are using iPads in place of traditional wall or near-vision charts to test visual acuity. This is because, given the demographic of AMD patients, the iPad offers a tangible approach to conventional testing which engages the patient much more. So much so that many are becoming more involved in their AMD management because of the digital convenience.

Some patients, according to a Medscape report, are purchasing their own iPad to check their eyesight at home using an inexpensive app (which can also be used on an iPhone).

Matthias Hartmann, MD, an ophthalmologist in private practice from Berlin, Germany, told Medscape Medical News.

“One of the major advantages of iPad testing is that patients are much more involved in their disease. They’re engaged,…It’s like a game, and many tell us they think they can do better.”

Video Games for Higher Vision

Not only does AMD benefit from using an iPhone or iPad to manage symptoms, now video games seem to help. Having come full circle, no longer are video games being considered the demise of today’s youth. Now, they offer an opportunity to enhance things like eye-hand coordination which show to benefit those afflicted with visual challenges such as AMD.

One of the attributes of gaming is improving contrast sensitivity which is important for driving at night or navigating through a dark path (like that midnight trek to the bathroom). A 2015 study published in the journal Retina concludes its findings of contrast sensitivity and AMD,

“Spaeth/Richman Contrast Sensitivity test, a novel Internet-based method of testing CS [Contrast Sensitivity], had significantly lower scores for patients with AMD compared with controls for central and peripheral vision. This test is a valuable tool for assessing CS in AMD.”

When navigating video games there are a variety of genres and levels to try. Most often it is the challenging scenarios that may help AMD. These usually require constant eye hand work to achieve a goal. Be sure and rest your eyes after about ten or fifteen minutes of continued play.

Coping with macular degeneration using iPhones, iPads and video games finally shows another good side of the digital onslaught taking over our lives. As technology and humans learn to live together you will hopefully see more opportunities for positive outcomes such as these.