13 million Americans over the age of 45 suffers with low vision, including those who’ve lost vision due to diabetes, macular degeneration or glaucoma. Eyeglasses or contacts usually don’t help this type of vision loss, but now a new patented pair of glasses is helping give these patients their ability to read again.
Cheering keeps Alexis London’s spirits high.
“It’s always exciting, it’s always fun to pep up the crowd,” Alexis told Ivanhoe.
Even during low points. Last year, Adam Esbenshade, MD, Hematologist/Oncologist at Vanderbilt University, diagnosed her with an inoperable brain tumor along her optic pathway.
“If we’re not able to stop the growth of this tumor, it will be a life-threatening situation,” Dr. Esbenshade told Ivanhoe.
Alexis’ mom, Tammy London, says a year’s worth of chemo stopped the growth, but it hasn’t been easy.
“Chemo was a really hard road. And watching her lose her eyesight, Tammy told Ivanhoe.
“My sight is pretty much like 20 percent in this eye and pretty much blind in the other eye,” Alexis said.
Now, new technology is giving Alexis hope. A special pair of glasses that allows Alexis to do her homework without a magnifying glass.
“It’s a lot easier too, then making it big and everything. I can actually read the small print,” Alexis explained.
Jeffrey Sonsino, OD, FAAO, Chief Medical Officer, LVR Technology, created the low vision readers. L-e-d lights and prism correction help folks who aren’t helped by traditional lenses.
“This came about because we couldn’t get people reading the way we wanted them to,” Dr. Sonsino told Ivanhoe.
For Alexis, it’s just another reason to cheer!
The low vision glasses cost less than $400 and allow Alexis to return to using textbooks at school, instead of highly enlarged text on her iPad.
BACKGROUND: According to Vanderbilt University research, 13 million people in the United States have low vision. This includes those who have lost vision due to diabetes, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Low vision is when a patient sees 20/50 or worse in the better seeing eye. The National Institutes of Health says millions of Americans lose some of their sight every year, but low vision is most common in those over age 65. Eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine and surgery may not help with low vision. Which means it may be difficult to read, shop, cook, write or watch television.
SIGNS/SYMPTOMS: Low vision can be caused by eye diseases or health conditions. Some of these conditions may include age-related macular degeneration, cataract diabetes and glaucoma. Eye injuries and birth defects can also cause low vision. According to the National Institutes of Health, the vision cannot be restored. But, proper treatment and vision rehabilitation can help manage the condition. Even with glasses or contacts, low vision can make it difficult to recognize family and friends' faces. Selecting and matching the color of clothes, seeing clearly with the lights on and reading traffic signals or names of stores can also be difficult with low vision. A comprehensive dilated eye exam can help detect low vision. (Source: https://www.nei.nih.gov/health/lowvision/LivingWithLowVisionBooklet.pdf)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Low Vision readers use led lights and prism correction to help people who don't have success with traditional lenses. Researchers at Vanderbilt University say the low vision readers enable patients to perform tasks that were nearly impossible like texting and reading without an oversized magnifying glass. The lighted glasses are relatively inexpensive, less than $400. The devices are typically not covered by insurance but they cost less than a regular set of progressive lenses. Patients can use the lighted glasses instead of relying on enlarged text on iPads. Readers improve near vision for those with vision impairment. This new, patented technology overcomes the main factors which prevent individuals with low vision from reading - poor contrast and lighting, magnification, and prism correction. The combination of these elements provides the ideal conditions for near work such as viewing pictures, sewing, identifying labels, writing checks and reading text. (Source:
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Jeffrey Sonsino, OD, FAAO, Chief Medical Officer at LVR Technology talks about a new patented pair of glasses that are giving patients their ability to read again.
What do you call these glasses?
Dr. Sonsino: This technology is called: Low Vision Readers.
Can you tell us how these came to be?
Dr. Sonsino: The Low Vision Readers were created when I was working in academic medicine. I was seeing hundreds of low vision patients, patients with vision impairment. There were very few optical devices that they could use very efficiently to be able to read. So I created a pair of glasses that have a lot of magnification with LED lights that are very strong and focus directly on what the patient is reading. They also have something called prism in the glasses to help the patient to focus at a close distance without tiring out. After seeing hundreds of patients with these and prescribing something very similar I created a pair of glasses that was specifically made for the low vision patient.
Can you define low vision?
Dr. Sonsino: Low vision is when a patient sees 20/50 or worse in the better seeing eye. It’s always due to some kind of pathology or disease within the eye that’s not correctable with glasses, contact lenses or surgery.
I was going to say 20/50 is not that bad.
Dr. Sonsino: Examples of conditions that create low vision are macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, all of which the glasses will treat and help people to read.
But in Alexis’s case it was different.
Dr. Sonsino: Alexis had a problem that was similar to these three conditions but in children. We tried the glasses on and it significantly helped her read.
How do the glasses work?
Dr. Sonsino: The power in the glasses is that it is a very simple device for allowing people with vision impairment to read. As soon as we open the temple the lights come on, there’s no on-off switch that people have to fumble with. There was nothing like this on the market and that’s why my team created it. There’s also power in the lenses that focuses the image at a closer distancethan normal creating significant magnification. The third aspect of the glasses is prism. Prism tricks the brain into thinking that the close reading distance is actually not so close and the eyes therefore don’t tire out when people read for long period of time.
What is the prism ?
Dr. Sonsino: The prism is built into the lens and it helps people to sustain their reading for longer periods of time without tiring out.
How big of a need would you say there is for a product like this?
Dr. Sonsino: The need is huge. There’s no exact number of patients with low vision in America and worldwide, but estimates range from 14 to 30 million people in the U.S. that would be able to be helped with this kind of technology. Worldwide we're talking about 300 million people.
This is for people with 20/50 vision but it’s not correctable in the better seeing eye?
Dr. Sonsino: That’s right. Low vision is present when there’s some type of pathology in the eyes that is not treatable with glasses, contact lenses or surgery. When reading suffers, we go to low vision devices to help patients function better in their environment.
How did you meet Alexis?
Dr. Sonsino: Alexis came to me about a year ago as a patient. She had extreme difficulty reading and especially with her school work; even with just a phone, she couldn’t text. I saw her in my low vision clinic and I prescribed the Low Vision Readers. When she put them on immediately she saw an improvement and she just read away, in fact we have a picture of her showing her phone and it says, I love you daddy. It was the first text that she wrote with the help of the Low Vision Readers help. It was a pretty magical moment.
What does that mean for you to be a part of moments like that?
Dr. Sonsino: It just makes me feel great as a doctor.
How long have they been available?
Dr. Sonsino: We just launched this product at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in September to doctors to have the ability to prescribe this to their patients. They are also available on our website.
What is the cost and is it covered by insurance?
Dr. Sonsino: At this point, no low vision devices are typically covered by insurance. The cost of this device is less than the cost of a regular set of progressive lenses that people would normally purchase at the optometrist's office.
So how much is that?
Dr. Sonsino: Less than four hundred dollars.
What’s the advantage of using these over progressive lens?
Dr. Sonsino: The technology that we have in the Low Vision Readers cannot be accomplished in a progressive lens. You can’t have high magnification and prism and lighting altogether in a progressive set of glasses. That can only be found in this technology. So the technology is far and above what you can get in regular lenses.
For the millions of people that would need something like this what has been the option up until now has a just been a progressive lenses?
Dr. Sonsino: There are other low vision devices on the market right now. Probably the most famous are handheld magnifiers. These are magnifiers that have lights on them. They’re functional except for the fact that they restrict the amount of text that the patient can see through it. So the field of view is very small. Couple that with the fact that you have to hold it with your hand and it becomes a little more difficult than it sounds. And so the reason the Low Vision Readers work so well is that they’re simple. The patient merely opens the pair of glasses, puts it on their face and is able to read.
Anything else you think we missed?
Dr. Sonsino: The most important thing with any low vision device is simplicity and we’ve created a device which we think is simpler to use and easier to use for the patient than anything else out there. The low vision readers are also patented technology.
What did you find in the clinical study?
Dr. Sonsino: The clinical study found an 89.1% improvement in people’s reading vision over their standard glasses alone. So we know that it works. The other way that we know it works is when somebody sits on their pair of glasses and breaks, they will not leave my office until we replace it. So we know that they’re using it and that they like it.
If someone is interested in these is there a place online that they can order them from or do they have to come to Nashville?
Dr. Sonsino: They can go online to our website at www.lowvisionreaders.com or call toll free 888-509-0910.
How would they contact you?
Dr. Sonsino: They can go to our website www.lowvisionreaders.com or call toll free 888-509-0910..
Is there anything else you wanted to say? Basically you realized there was need for this how?
Dr. Sonsino: We have so many patients with similar characteristics and we couldn’t find a device that satisfied their needs. So, necessity is the mother of invention and this came about because we couldn’t get people reading the way we wanted them to. And now we finally can.