Rehabilitation for macular disorders

Researchers are exploring new rehabilitation options for people suffering from macular disorders

Macular disorders are one of the most common causes of vision impairment across the world, with 196 million people impacted by age-related macular degeneration.

Research by Natalia Kelly from La Trobe’s School of Allied Health Human Services and Sport is looking at new rehabilitation options for people suffering from this condition.

“Macular degeneration can lead to vision loss which impairs near and distance vision, contrast sensitivity, colour vision, depth perception and fixation stability.  It can also have a significant impact on quality of life by hindering performance of daily living activities such as reading and recognising faces,” explains Natalia.

“At present, people with macular disorders usually use magnification devices, either optical or electronic, to help them see better. However, there are other rehabilitation strategies that could improve activities associated with daily living, such as biofeedback eccentric viewing training (EVT).”

Biofeedback EVT is the use of light and sound to train someone with central vision loss to use their peripheral vision to see. The point in the peripheral vision is uniquely chosen for each person and based on their central vision loss. During training, the person looks slightly away from the object to view it from their peripheral, rather than central, vision.

“My research examined the effectiveness of a program that combines biofeedback EVT using microperimetry with home exercises. Microperimetry is a visual field machine that allows us to see a live image of the back of the eye while measuring where vision is lost and remains,” she explains.

“The home exercise component included reading activities as well as individualised tasks such as watching TV or recognizing faces during a social event, which enabled participants to practice the technique in their natural environment.”

Natalia’s research has highlighted that biofeedback EVT and home exercises can improve visual function.

“This discovery has the potential to improve the quality of life for people with age-related macular degeneration. The next step is to undertake a double-blind randomised control study to explore the impact of this treatment and to improve the evidence base for this protocol.”