“It was a different life then”— says Bill McKenzie on his world without his Ocutech Bioptics

For Bill McKenzie, the old proverb “big things come in small packages” could not ring truer. It began when he received his first Ocutech bioptic telescope low vision aid. It was then that he could again enjoy the little things that he used to take for granted like watching TV or shopping— or the big things like watching his grandchildren play sports or just being able to see their eyes when he talked with them.

“My Ocutech bioptics reopened my life for me,” Bill reminisced. “Without them, I was hiding in my own little world where I didn’t say ‘hi’ to people because I couldn’t recognize them—I felt so unconnected… it was a difficult time in my life.”

In 1995, Bill was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, a condition that reduces central vision making it difficult for him to read print, see TV and signs at a distance and recognize people’s faces. By 2014, he found that he couldn’t see well enough to drive anymore, use a tool in his shop, or read with pleasure the way he used to.

To help combat his reduced vision, he installed 28-inch monitors to his computers and bought a 65 inch TV. He would insure that he had magnifying glasses throughout the house and he even purchased a microscope to help him look at print material. “The bigger the better,” he said.

And, he finally realized the one important thing he was trying to avoid: he needed help. “I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer. It was hard for me to accept!”

On his next visit to his retina eye doctor where he shared his frustrations for the first time, he was referred to a low vision specialist.  “They talked to me about what I wanted to be able to see and do. No one had asked me those types of questions before. Just, ‘how are you seeing today? Crummy I would reply!” It was at his low vision appointment where Bill expressed his frustration about not seeing well at a distance, that Bill was shown an Ocutech bioptic, special glasses with miniature telescopes mounted in the top. He was amazed that he could see so clearly again, but that was on the eyechart! He was eager to see if they would help in the real world.

Bill now owns two Ocutech bioptics–the SightScope and the Falcon. The SightScope, a Galilean telescope design for both eyes works just like a pair of binoculars. They make things twice as big, and they let him see twice as far away. And, they can be used up close with special extra reading caps that he can attach to the front.  But his Falcon, the world’s only autofocusing bioptic, gives him the most natural magnified vision because wherever he looks it’s clear immediately just like normal vision.  They’re much stronger power than his lower power SightScope and he can see even further away.  “The field of view is a little narrow like the mirrors in a car, he noted, and that took some getting used to, but once I did it they are a pleasure to use,” he said.

“Bioptic eyeglasses have added a new dimension to people with low vision,” Bill shared, “it’s a shame that so few people know about them. If it’s going to pick up groceries, visiting my five children or seeing my 12 grandchildren at their birthdays, BBQ’s— you name it— I now get to have those experiences back. The bioptics certainly bring things back to my life.”

And something he never expected, Bill is on the road again, driving his car, and appreciating not only his freedom and independence but also his physical and mental health. He takes the car to go to physical therapy (due to the knee replacement he recently had) as well as check-ups with his cardiologist. Beyond these appointments, Bill likes taking the time to drive and get his curbside grocery pickup or visit his family. “I’d go insane if I just had to sit inside all day,” he said.

Yet Bill’s greatest joy these days is getting to see his grandchild play soccer. He goes to the game a proud grandparent who can finally see the scoreboard and his grandchild run across the field. To be able to watch, see and experience the game like everyone else means everything to Bill.

“How do you explain it? When you have vision that deteriorates slowly, you slowly stop recognizing things, or faces of people who you always once saw,” Bill explained, reflecting. “And then suddenly, you have these lenses that can let you see like 20-50 feet away again… it’s surreal. Your world expands— and you get some important parts of your life back again.”

For more information about Ocutech bioptics, to determine whether you might be a promising candidate, or to request a referral to an Ocutech Low Vision prescriber visit www.ocutech.com. Complete the no obligation self-assessment questionnaire at https://ocutech.com/self-assessment-form/ to receive a reply from Ocutech’s experts about your specific vision options.


The Importance of Ocular Dominance in Low Vision Care

By Henry Greene, OD, FAAO

Over the years experienced practitioners tend to ‘go where the action is.’  What this means to me is that we refine our testing methods to do the tests that are most instructive in managing the patient and stop doing tests that don’t tell us much.

One such test that I have found very helpful is testing for ocular dominance. I’ve written a short blog post about Ocular Dominance and I’ve shared it here.

All of us have a dominant eye, just as we do a dominant hand and foot. Some of us have a very strong dominance while others can easily switch between eyes. I have a very strongly dominant right eye.  I can barely localize when looking through a monocular telescope with my left eye, and it took forever for me to learn to use my left eye with my handheld ophthalmoscope (dating myself, aren’t I?)

As we know, the dominant eye superimposes over the non-dominant eye. If the non-dominant eye is the only eye with reduced acuity, the patient might not even notice it.  However, if the dominant eye has the reduced acuity, they’ll be on the phone to us immediately. 

Whenever I have a patient with markedly different acuity between the eyes, I always have them cover the poorer-seeing eye.  If they report that they see better with that eye closed, than the covered eye is likely the dominant eye and this will impact all my prescribing decisions both distance and near.  When the poorer-seeing eye is the dominant eye and it drags down binocular vision I call it a “dominancy conflict.”

Most individuals find that sighting and localizing through a monocular telescope is much easier when using the dominant eye. In fact, many individuals are unable to aim or sight through a telescope with the non-dominant eye (like me!).  As a result, the ability for the patient to localize through a bioptic telescope will be much more natural if they are using their dominant eye.

Another easy way to determine the dominant eye is to ask the patient to look through a monocular handheld telescope without suggesting which eye to use. (I use a handheld 2.2x Galilean for BCVA of 20/100 and better, or a 4×12 Keplerian pre-focused for the chart distance for 20/125 and less.) They will usually bring it to their dominant reflexively.  And, since I already know which is the better seeing eye, I’m keeping my fingers crossed (behind my back) that they bring it to the better-seeing and hence dominant eye!

 If they ask which eye they should use, I suggest they bring it to whichever eye seems more natural.  On occasion, patients will show no ocular preference and can sight equally well with either eye, for which I send up a prayer of thanks, however this is less common.

When thinking about bioptic telescopes, if I have a dominancy conflict I will try to prescribe a binocular system in lower powers or if I need a monocular device, I would often prefer to prescribe a higher power to the dominant eye so long as I can get the acuity through telescope that I seek.  If I have to prescribe to the non-dominant eye, I might consider a sector occluder so when the patient dips their head to sight through the bioptic the fellow eye is covered.  However, even with occluders and/or lots of training I have usually found that these folks have a bit more of a challenge thriving with their bioptic and I will warn them about that right away.

Hope this little tidbit helps you as much as it has helped me.