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It will probably be a number of years before macular degeneration falls into the category of a truly preventable disease. Many individuals with macular degeneration currently reach the point where no surgery, treatment or medication can reverse or halt the devastating progression of this disease. The purpose of the Vision Rehabilitation service is to help these individuals make the most of their limited vision. To accomplish this, state-of-the-art devices will be employed to improve the quality of life of individuals who have experience a loss of vision.
Visual loss often causes depression in individuals with macular degeneration. This response lessens the individual's ability to make adaptations for their vision loss. While many vision rehabilitation programs simply provide a few vision aids, without significant counseling or other instruction, the Vision Rehabilitation unit of the University of Iowa Center for Macular Degeneration employs and incorporates both psychological and physical rehabilitation in its care of individuals with visual impairments. Individuals with visual impairments are taught to use their remaining visual abilities, much like physical or occupational therapists would help an individual who has suffered from a stroke. By adapting appliances and utilizing vision rehabilitation devices specifically designed for the needs of the individual, many individuals with visual impairments are able to maintain their independence. Another significant advancement has been the development of techniques for individuals to read using only their peripheral vision. The University of Iowa is the home of the National Advanced Driving Simulator and Simulation Center. Since its completion in the Fall 2000, this laboratory has been used to study the effects of various degenerative eye conditions on driving skills. This research helps us develop strategies that will allow individuals with macular degeneration, as well as other conditions that cause vision loss, to continue driving safely for as long as possible.