Helping you with Low Vision

How could a magnifier help you?
Magnifiers for looking at things close-up
Magnifiers for looking at things in the distance
Obtaining further information



Diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy result in central scotomas, or blind spots, within the field of vision of the sufferer. When viewing an object, these blind spots "obstruct" the object, partially or completely, making the object difficult or impossible recognise. If the object is magnified, however, the blind spots are less of an obstruction, making the object's recognition and identification much easier.

The following pictures will give an illustration.

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How could a magnifier help you?

It is not easy if you are unable to see everyday things. Maybe you struggle with instructions on a packet or cannot see whether a letter is a bill or junk mail. Using a magnifier might make print and other objects big enough to see. Many people find that they are really useful for looking at things close-up and further away.

Here are some examples of things that magnifiers might help you to see more easily:

  • Cooking instructions and food labels

  • TV listings

  • Control dials on cookers and washing machines

  • Photographs

  • Correspondence

  • Outdoor scenery

  • Watching television.

Magnifiers have different strengths and sizes so that they can be used for doing different things. All magnifiers are not the same. They vary based on their power, lens type, and design purpose and can be optical or video-based.

On the whole, the larger the size of the magnifier lens, the weaker it will be. More powerful magnifiers are smaller and have to be held close to your eye and what you want to look at when being used. With stronger magnifiers you might not see as much at once – for example, you might only see part of a word.

Many people have a few magnifiers, which they can use for doing different things. The best way of finding out which magnifiers are right for you is by going to a low vision service for help and advice.

Various magnifying device designs exist for different purposes. The most common categories are as follows:

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Magnifiers for looking at things close-up

Hand-held magnifiers

These are designed to help you with short-term spotting tasks of near objects such as reading menus, price tags and medication.

These helpful devices are very portable, versatile and economical, and are available with and without light sources.

Hand-held magnifiers can be used for most things that you want to see close-up. They are often known as “magnifying glasses”. Hand-held magnifiers can be held in either hand above the writing or object that you want to look bigger. They can be round, oblong or square. Strengths of these magnifiers vary from between one and a half times and ten times. Some have a battery operated light. Hand-held magnifiers can be difficult to use if you have a weak or shaky hand.

Stand magnifiers

These are designed for your extended viewing tasks of near objects such as reading books, magazines or newspapers. Stand magnifiers rest directly on the object and are available with and without illumination.

Stand magnifiers can be used for reading and sometimes writing. They are mounted on stands that sit on the page you want to see. They are often good if you have weak or shaky hands. Stand magnifiers need to be kept flat on the page when they are used. They can be moved across the page to see each line.

Stand magnifiers are made in different shapes and sizes and are available in strengths from two times to twenty times. Some stand magnifiers are fitted with lights. These are called illuminated stand magnifiers and can be plugged into an electrical socket or fitted with batteries.

Pocket magnifiers

Pocket magnifiers are small hand-held magnifiers, which fit into your coat pocket or handbag. They are ideal for taking out and about to places like your local shops. The strength of pocket magnifiers varies from two times to ten times. Some pocket magnifiers are fitted with little lights, whilst others are designed to fold up.

Magnifying spectacles

Magnifying spectacles are designed for hands-free viewing of near objects for an extended period of time, such as reading, especially in bed.

Many people would like magnifiers that fit into their spectacles so that they can have their hands free for holding a book. Magnifiers in spectacles are not the same as ordinary spectacles. They either have very strong lenses, which are thicker than normal lenses or they have telescopic lenses that stick out from the spectacles’ frames. To use spectacle mounted magnifiers you have to hold things much closer to your eyes than normal. Spectacle mounted magnifiers can be made to be used by one or both eyes.

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Magnifiers for looking at things in the distance

Telescopic devices

These are primarily designed to magnify distant objects. Such devices can be hand-held for short-term spotting, or worn as eyewear for your extended periods of viewing such as watching television.


Monoculars are used for looking at things in the distance. Monoculars are like mini telescopes, which you look through with only one eye. They may help you to look at a football match, the television or a view or look at road signs. Monoculars are easy to carry outdoors. You can get several types and unlike magnifiers, the bigger the telescope is, the stronger it is. Strengths range from two and a half times to ten times. Many of the weaker telescopes can be mounted into spectacles but the stronger ones are too heavy to do this.


Binoculars are also used for looking at things in the distance, but rather than one eye, you use two eyes to look through them.

Video magnifiers

Provide the highest levels of magnification and help to enhance the contrast of objects being viewed. Video magnifiers typically employ CCTV-like cameras. Some video magnifiers are hand-held, while others may look like a computer, and still others are head-mounted. Each type of magnifier is designed to offer different benefits and distinct applications.

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Obtaining further information

If you would like to learn more about low vision and magnifiers, we recommend visiting, where detailed information on low vision aids can be found and a comprehensive range is available to browse and purchase.

Please contact the secretaries if you would like to be put in touch with a low vision service for help and advice.

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