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New book offers help and hope for people suffering from low vision

December 14, 2016

Magdeburg, Germany, December 14, 2016 - Becoming blind changes a person's life on a fundamental level. Because new treatments can be slow to reach mainstream medicine, low vision patients are often told there is nothing they can do to restore their sight. Focus shifts towards helping them to adjust to their new situation; however, there are innovative vision restoration techniques that can help patients improve their eyesight. A new book by the world's leading expert on vision restoration, Professor Bernhard A. Sabel, PhD, delivers information about how to better understand the impact of vision loss and new treatment options that could potentially help the more than 150 million people worldwide who suffer from partial blindness.

In Restoring Low Vision: How to Strengthen Your Potentials in Low Vision and Blindness, Dr. Sabel examines the most up-to-date science behind blindness and explains the latest treatments. While conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and cataracts can be fixed with established methods like corrective glasses and lenses, there are few solutions offered to patients with low vision due to nerve or brain damage. Conditions like glaucoma, optic nerve damage, ischemic optic neuropathy, age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, stroke, or brain damage can leave people with limited vision. Often medical practitioners are at a loss for treatment options for nerve-related vision loss, but there is emerging research and treatments that may be able to help these patients.

"This new field of vision restoration should not be known only to a few specialized researchers or those who are masters at navigating the Internet. It's an important issue affecting many millions of people and their families, and it needs to be explained clearly to everyone," commented Dr. Sabel. "This is why I wrote this book: to raise awareness about low vision and vision restoration."

The focus of this new book is on how the brain can help the eye to see, even when the nerve tissue is damaged. Building on the scientific principal known as neuroplasticity, Dr. Sabel's work explains how to modulate brain function to partially repair vision loss and his techniques focus on harnessing the natural power of the brain to enhance the visual signals that travel from the eye to the brain, allowing people with low vision to see better.

"The brain is a marvelous computer inside your head," explained Dr. Sabel. "It's a kind of amplifier that does all the information processing. It can amplify the visual information coming from the outside world, it filters and interprets the images, it stores visual images in memory, and it is the master that controls every behavior of our body and mind. But if less visual information reaches the brain because of a visual disease, the brain´s talents as an amplifier can be used to compensate for and recover the damage."

While the science Dr. Sabel covers in the book is complex, his mastery of the subject matter allows him to explain it in a way everyone can understand. His goal in writing the book was to give patients and their caregivers an overview of the latest breakthroughs in vision restoration techniques so they could take charge of their own health.

Dr. Donald G. Stein, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Emory University and a pioneer in the field of brain plasticity, praises the book as an accessible work that can make a real difference in patients' lives. "This well-written and easy-to-follow book on restoring vision is based on Dr. Sabel's decades of experience, first in basic vision research and later in clinical studies. Though the book is written primarily for patients, its rich and diverse content is based on highly credible science and builds on his experience with hundreds of visually impaired patients," wrote Dr. Stein. "This is a far cry from the 'there-is-a-drug-for-everything' approach so characteristic of medicine in developed countries. Sabel is combining hard-core science with an approach that embraces the full complexity of vision, while also looking at the 'person behind the eye' from different perspectives."

While Restoring Low Vision offers a wealth of scientific knowledge, the book also discusses the emotional ramifications of vision loss and takes a holistic approach that patients can apply to their own recovery. "When people talk about vision loss they focus mostly on what is gone," stated Dr. Sabel. "But to deal successfully with vision loss you have to think and talk about how to best make use of what you have and what you can still do, including the vision that is still left. This is rarely addressed. People talk about loss, impairment, inabilities. But instead of focusing just on what has been lost, let´s rather focus on what can be done to uncover the hidden potentials that still remain."

Institute for Medical Psychology, Otto-v.-Guericke University Magdeburg

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