ClearView C from Optelec can magnify up to 170x for a severe low-vision patient.
Hilco’s ezReader works easily with a patient’s TV.
Freedom Scientific’s handheld RUBY HD XL offers on-the-go convenience for day or night.
Tech-Optics molds its CR-39 lenses to the frame for the most secure fit.
Eschenbach’s new MagniLink S Video plugs into a laptop and the camera magnifies the image-from 1.4x to 75x-onto the computer screen.
Enhanced Vision’s Acrobat HD-mini features a lightweight, portable design with a three-in-one camera that magnifies images both near and far.

The current crop of electronic magnifiers and low-vision aids can transform a patient’s quality of life.

According to the National Eye Institute, there are 20 million people who are visually impaired. Low vision can be caused by underlying eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts as well as medical issues such as strokes and traumatic brain injuries. Each year, there are 200,000 new cases of macular degeneration diagnosed in the U.S., and as Baby Boomers age, demand for vision aids will increase.

No matter what the patient’s age, everyone wants low-vision aids that are effective, aesthetically appealing, and easy to use. “Low-vision clients are more educated on the products, and over the past five to 10 years have demanded better-looking products and accessibility,” explains Lisa Wassamer, director of sales and marketing at Tech-Optics International. In addition, seniors are more tech-savvy than ever before, according to Paula Fazio, senior product manager at Hilco. “In the past, you couldn’t get an 80-year-old patient to use an electronic device so generationally, it’s changing,” she notes. And the devices are life-changing. “We have helped thousands of people regain their visual independence by providing them with the ability to read, write, perform daily tasks, and enjoy hobbies again,” says Marc Stenzel, vice president of sales at Enhanced Vision. In addition to the visually impaired, there are occupations such as doctors, dentists, and those in the automotive industry (who inspect circuit boards, for example), in which magnification products are critical to job performance.

An ECP’s first step in figuring out a patient’s needs is giving an exam and asking lifestyle questions, according to Timothy Gels, marketing manager at Eschenbach Optik of America. Does she need to read a bus stop sign, prescription pill bottle, or a book? Fazio points out that food labels with tiny print and glossy finishes can be a unique challenge for low-vision individuals; a magnifier with yellow or LED light would fit the bill.

For day-to-day needs, there are a variety of handheld, stand, and illuminated magnifiers. The popular easyPocket from Eschenbach is available in 4x magnification, features a distortion-free, 50mm x 46mm aspheric/diffractive hybrid lens that is only 3mm thick, and SMD LED lighting with a built-in automatic contact mechanism.

Enhanced Vision’s Acrobat HD-mini features a lightweight, portable design with a three-in-one camera that magnifies images both close up and farther away. Freedom Scientific’s latest handheld magnifier, the Ruby XL HD, has the largest screen of the Ruby series, and a high-definition camera. It can magnify from 2x to 14x, and text can be read in the dark, thanks to LED lighting. The Ruby XL HD also has a built-in reading stand that holds the screen at a comfortable angle. “People nowadays are more mobile, and they need low-vision products that can easily travel with them,” adds Joe Chung, U.S. director of sales for Optelec.

For home use, Hilco’s ezReader Magnifier transforms any TV into a visual aid; the reader simply goes on top of the reading material and gets magnified onto the screen. Internal LED illumination ensures that the image is bright and it operates with three AAA batteries. Patients who read for longer periods of time could consider Eschenbach’s new 3.6 Makrolux. It has a tilted lens to reduce neck strain and fatigue and distortion-free, edge-to-edge clarity through a large (90mm x 30mm) viewing area, making it easy to navigate newspapers and magazines. Bottom ridges keep the lens 1mm off the reading surface to prevent scratches.

When it comes to partially sighted patients who wear high-powered Rx glasses, there are headborne telescopes and microscopes. Designs for Vision specializes in these products, which must be drilled through a pair of glasses, according to Jody Klager, director of vision services. Its new E- Scoop glasses were “developed to bridge the gap between standard eyeglasses and headborne telescopes,” Klager says. The product is perfect for those with early stage macular degeneration and excellent for night driving. Tech-Optics also offers high-quality CR-39′ lenses that are molded to the frames, according to Wassamer.

What’s most in demand these days are portable video magnifiers. Eschenbach’s new MagniLink S Video magnifies a laptop screen from 1.4x to 75x. It has six viewing options: full color and five “false” colors for text and background as well as a TTS (text-to-speech) mode. Ergonomically designed for right- or left-handed users, the Magnalink S Video also has a periscope function, which allows for a free line of sight in a classroom. Optelec’s new ClearView C video desktop also enables patients to read and write for longer periods of time and can magnify to 75x with a special option of going up to 170x. It boasts 1080p video processing for ultra-sharp images, 16 high-contrast color combinations, and integrated lighting.

Offering reading and short-distance viewing, Optelec’s new Compact Touch HD with a 5-in. screen is the first of its kind to provide touch-screen technology. The Compact Touch HD features magnification from 2x to 20x, a battery-integrated handle, an adjustable document viewing mode, 10 high-contrast color combinations, snapshot capability with zoom, and steady reading with the enclosed magnetic sheet. It can also connect to an external monitor or TV with HDMI or an RCA input.

A low-vision patient will fall into one of three categories: slight (20/50 — 20/100), moderate (20/100 — 20/200), or severe (20/200+), according to Gels. If an ECP wants to service the moderate level and above, she needs some expert help. Manufacturers offer a range of training, from phone support to in-person sessions with a trained sales rep.

Eschenbach and Designs for Vision provide training with the purchase of a diagnostic package, which will be customized to the practice. “Optometrists have studied this in school, but they sometimes need a refresher,” Gels explains. Tech-Optics also prides itself on working closely with ECPs to arm them with knowledge. “We educate ECPs one on one and help determine what would work with them in their particular store,” says Wassamer. She suggests setting up P-O-P displays and placing a variety of magnifiers next to the magazines in the waiting room. Once a patient tries it, they will see the benefits right away.

So instead of passing off this business to a specialist as they may have done in the past, ECPs should invest some time and money into low-vision patients, according to Fazio, and they will witness returns in both the practice’s reputation and profit margins.

Michele Silver is the managing editor of VCPN.



Designs for Vision
Enhanced Vision
Eschenbach Optik of America
Freedom Scientific
Tech-Optics International

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