Stroke Victims Look to Innovative Glasses to Improve Side Vision
In addition to being the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, strokes can lead to any number of life-changing disabilities. One of the most common side effects of the estimated 800,000 strokes that occur each year in the country is a loss of side vision (hemianopsia) of up to one-half to the right or the left. With May being both "Stroke Prevention Month," as well as "Healthy Vision Month," there is a new focus on the challenges patients with stroke-related hemianopsia face, as well as the hope that advanced Side Vision Awareness Glasses (SVAG) can provide.
"When individuals experience hemianopsia much more than just their side vision is reduced," says Richard Shuldiner, OD, founder of The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists (IALVS), "Their quality of life diminishes, too." So concerned about bumping into others or accidentally walking off a curb or into traffic, the condition can leave patients feeling insecure in unfamiliar surroundings. Some avoid going out altogether; others struggle to make it through the day. Though no treatment can actually restore the lost field of vision for these patients, Side Vision Awareness Glasses (SVAG) serve as optical field expansion devices that can increase patients' viewing fields, improve their safety and enhance confidence. So effective, patients with custom-made SVAG typically experience an increase of about 15 degrees in side vision awareness immediately upon putting them on. The use of SVAG may even allow some patients to resume driving.
Developed by IALVS member Dr. Errol Rummel, Director of the Neuro-optometric Rehabilitation Clinic at the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Pomona, NJ, SVAG represents an important advancement over other devices that came before them. Crafted of lens materials known to minimize distortion, they are noticeably thinner. Also, there is no obvious line in front of the lens, no "thick button," and no lens strip inserted through the front of the lens. The front of SVAG's lenses is smooth and barely distinguishable from ordinary glasses.
More important than being better looking than previous devices designed to manage the condition, SVAG provides far-improved vision by offering the widest viewing area. Their vertical edge enables a person with hemianopsia to move their eyes just a few millimeters to access the SVAG area of the lens. Unlike devices that superimpose a narrow peripheral image over a person's central vision, SVAG is easier for patients to use, as well as to learn to use. They're also harder to break, because there is no glued seam splitting through the lens from front to back.
Patients with hemianopsia who are acutely aware of their side vision loss can often be trained to scan their eyes to compensate for their impairment, but for those who are unaware or inattentive to the condition, which doctors term "hemianopsia with neglect," SVAG can go beyond increasing their field of vision—they can broaden their worlds.
In any case, a qualified low vision optometrist can help you determine whether Side Vision Awareness Glasses are right for you or a loved one. All members of The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists are low vision optometrists with extensive training and experience in assisting patients suffering from stroke-related hemianopsia. To locate a member near you, simply visit their website: www.ialvs.com or call 1-888-778-2030 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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