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OPTICAL DEVICE ENABLES SOME WITH MACULAR DEGENERATION TO DRIVE

 OPTICAL DEVICE ENABLES SOME WITH MACULAR DEGENERATION TO DRIVE
 MONTREAL, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- A special optical device can enable some people who have lost their central vision to macular degeneration or to other eye health problems to drive, says an optometrist.
 The device is called a bioptic telescope and it can also be used for watching television, movies, theatrical performances or sports events, says Norman J. Weiss, O.D., a low vision specialist in Buffalo, who is conducting an education session today at the annual meeting of the American Optometric Association's Low Vision Section in Montreal.
 The bioptic telescope is a lens device mounted in a spectacle frame, Weiss explained. The person's normal prescription is at the bottom and a mini-telescope is mounted above it. Both portions of the lens are used for distance vision, with the telescope providing magnification.
 For driving, a person uses the telescopic part about 5 percent of the time, to identify street signs and signals, Weiss said. For watching television or events, the telescope is used for longer periods of time.
 About 25 states permit people to drive with bioptic telescopes. To do so, a person must have normal peripheral (side) vision; must pass a vision test administered by a low vision specialist; and must pass both written and driving tests administered by the state's motor vehicle department.
 After the optometrist determines a person is a good candidate for bioptic telescopes and prescribes them, training begins in the optometrist's office to teach the person how to use the lenses in a variety of situations.
 "We begin with slides that have numbers on them and gradually decrease the amount of time the person has to see the slide," Weiss said. The goal is to be able to recall at least five letters in 1.5 seconds, a skill needed to read street and road signs. Training sessions also include using signs and are done under daylight and dim light, to simulate night driving conditions.
 For road tests with the optometrist, the patient sits in the passenger seat and calls out street, stop, speed limit and instruction signs. For the last test administered by the optometrist, the patient plots the route and directs the driver, making all the decisions a driver needs to make. These tests are done during the day and at night.
 "If they can't handle night driving, we recommend a restriction on their license," Weiss said. Other restrictions might be limiting driving to secondary roads or under certain weather conditions.
 Drivers with bioptic telescopes have no problem getting insurance at regular rates, Weiss said. For a typical age range, their accident rate is about the same as for other drivers. In the under-25 group, the bioptic driver is much safer.
 People who have lost their central vision to an eye health problem need to see a low vision specialist to learn if they are candidates for bioptic telescopes and for training, Weiss said. They must be able to adapt to change and have patience.
 -0- 6/22/92
 /CONTACT: Charlotte Rancilio of the American Optometric Association, 314-991-4100/ CO: American Optometric Association ST: Missouri IN: MTC SU:


GK-TQ -- NYFNS6 -- 2196 06/22/92 07:32 EDT
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Date:Jun 22, 1992
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