Device restores vision to patient with Stargardt disease


An artificial vision device (MyEye, OrCam) has helped a blind veteran regain his independence, according to the charity Scottish War Blinded.

An artificial vision device (MyEye, OrCam) has helped a blind veteran regain his independence, according to the charity Scottish War Blinded.

Rod MacLaren, of Auchterarder, Scotland, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease in 1994. The genetic condition had severely deteriorated his central vision.

For the past two decades the retired farm worker, aged 83, had adapted well to his diminishing eyesight. Then last year he found that he was beginning to rely more and more on his friends and family for help.

The device is a discreet camera fixed to the arm of a pair of glasses that can turn text into speech at the click of a button, reading it aloud to the wearer. It can also assist in recognising faces, according to the manufacturer.

In a small pilot study, the technology improved scores in a test simulating activities of daily living. After receiving it, 12 patients with visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in their better eye increased their scores on the 10-item test from a mean of 2.5 with vision correction alone to a mean of 9.5 when using the device.

In seven patients who used other low-vision aids such as magnifying glasses, scores improved from 6.0 to 9.7 (JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(7):748-752.) With the help of the device, Mr MacLaren is able to read even small text.

“It’s a fantastic gadget and it makes a big difference to the day-to-day,” Mr MacLaren said. “I can read letters, pick out an audiobook at the library and go to the supermarket to do my shopping without help.”

He added: “I have lived here for the past 18 years so I know my way around. But last year I was getting to the stage where I needed someone to accompany me to the supermarket to help pick out the products and tell me what they were. I would come back with the wrong items, which was frustrating. I was really relying on the help of strangers.”

The MyEye was suggested by Scottish War Blinded outreach worker for Perth and Kinross, Marjory Kirkwood.

Ms Kirkwood said: “I’m very pleased with how the OrCam [MyEye] has helped Mr MacLaren so far. He’s an extremely thoughtful and independent gentleman who is very active in his community. He truly deserves this piece of equipment.


Revisiting recipes

A keen baker, Mr MacLaren is once again able to read recipes and can keep up his yearly tradition of cooking Christmas dinner for his elderly neighbours.

Scottish War Blinded also gave Mr MacLaren some talking scales to help with his kitchen creations.

Mr MacLaren added: “When I was first told about the OrCam [MyEye], I thought it wouldn’t be for me – I thought it would be a great big thing. But I was sold on it as soon as I had the demonstration. It’s incredibly clever and very easy to use.”

“I think people can be wary of technology like this and think it won’t suit them. But I think you just have to give these things a go. It’s difficult when you start to lose your sight so it’s important to reach out to support groups and charities like Scottish War Blinded. The support makes life so much easier.”

Mr MacLaren joined  Scottish War Blinded eight years ago after discovering he was eligible for membership having completed two years’ National Service. As a Private with the Seaforth Highlanders, MacLaren served in Egypt, Aden and Gibraltar.

Scottish War Blinded gives free support to ex-servicemen and women of all ages, whether they lost their sight during or after service. The charity’s services include rehabilitation and training to adapt to sight loss, grants for equipment to assist with independent living, funded respite care and home modifications.


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