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Center helps people with glaucoma and other eye conditions adapt to visual changes

Limited peripheral vision, which often occurs in people with glaucoma, makes it difficult to see someone approaching from the side or objects such as keys on a table. But often before noticing a difference in their eyesight, people with reduced peripheral vision may begin to feel anxious in unfamiliar places, seem to be misplacing things more frequently, and feel more forgetful in general.

At the Visual Rehabilitation Center, occupational therapist Mary Ruff helps people adapt to their reduced vision.

Experts at the Visual Rehabilitation Center at the University of Minnesota can help people understand why these changes may be happening and offer devices and strategies for coping with them. “Through understanding comes insight and the ability to compensate,” says Mary Ruff, an occupational therapist at the center.

Strategies for coping with limited peripheral vision might include stopping in a doorway and scanning the room before entering it, looking for obstacles as well as targets. If glaucoma progresses and affects the central vision, making it difficult for the person to read or see detail, staff at the Visual Rehabilitation Center will assess lighting and magnification to address these challenges as well.

The center, directed by Mary Lawrence, M.D., M.P.H., is equipped with numerous lighting and magnification devices for patients to use. A book of resources—listing everything from transportation options to sources for large-print sheet music and prayer books—is also in the works.

“People pay attention to what they see,” says Ruff. “If what people see is limited by visual field loss, it’s our job to provide instructions on how to effectively attend to the missing part. People aren’t programmed to do this, and it doesn’t come naturally. But we can help people learn how to live safely and successfully with changes in their vision.”

For more information on the Visual Rehabilitation Center, call 612-625-4474 or visit www.med.umn.edu/ophthalmology and click on “Centers and Special Programs.”

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