One of my patients uses a stand magnifier, her reading glasses and a clipboard for reading. Her stand magnifier does not have an internal light system and because she has to get close to it to read the print looks dim. How can I help her?

Stand magnifiers are useful to help reading for those people with low vision and who have difficulty in holding things for more than a few seconds. Hand magnifiers can be heavy, difficult to hold and difficult to hold in the correct position and correct distance from the page. The fact that a stand magnifier ‘stands’ on the object-usually print-that the person is trying to see takes some of the weight of the magnifier, helps keep the magnifier in the right position and automatically keeps the magnifying lens at the optimum distance from the page.

However, the very fact that the lens is held in a stand means that surrounding light is prevented from reaching the part of the page that the person whats to read. Some stand magnifiers have gaps in the stand and others have stands made from transparent plastic and some have both. This allows surrounding light to get to the page but for some people, this isn’t enough to allow reading for long periods.

I have mentioned before that good local light directed onto a page and reflected into the eye helps improve retinal function for most-but not all-people with low vision.

The dilemma is this: the person needs a stand magnifier to read with but the stand magnifier prevents the light the person needs to see well from getting to the page. The solution is a stand magnifier with a built-in light. These are often referred to as illuminated stand magnifiers. Most have an LED that creates the light. Some work off mains electricity and others by batteries.

The LED lasts for a very long time, provides good white light and doesn’t use much electricity.

Those that work off mains electricity are as light as non-illuminated stand magnifiers since the illumination system adds negligible weight to the magnifier. But it does mean that they can only be used-illuminated-when the person is near an electricity supply and they have to sit no further than the cable’s length from that supply. Those that work off batteries are heavier-because of the weight of the batteries-but as the magnifier stands on the page most of the weight is lost. However, if the magnifier is used a lot the batteries need frequent replacement and this can be difficult for a person who does not see well. Also, good batteries can be expensive, and while rechargeable batteries make good financial sense it does mean a person needs some access to mains electricity in order to charge them. Also if the magnifier is not used for a while the batteries may go off and leak into the magnifier damaging the illumination system.

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