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Could iPads, Kindles Be Just What the Eye Doctor Ordered?

MONDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Digital tablets such as iPads and Kindles can boost reading speed in people who have eye diseases that damage their central vision, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at 100 people with this type of vision loss and found that their reading speed increased by at least 42 words per minute when they used the iPad tablet on the 18-point font setting, compared with reading a print book or newspaper.

Their reading speed increased by an average of 12 words per minute when they used the Kindle tablet set to 18-point font, according to the researchers.

Patients with the poorest vision -- 20/40 or worse in both eyes -- showed the most improvement in reading speed when using the tablets, compared with print books or newspapers.

The high degree of contrast between words and the back-lit screen on the iPad is the reason people using that device had such a major increase in reading speed, the researchers said. The original Kindle used in this study does not have a back-lit screen.

The study also found that the degree of vision loss influenced patients' preferences for their mode of reading. Those with the worst vision found the iPad most comfortable, while those with the best vision preferred printed books and newspapers.

The findings will help eye doctors advise patients with various degrees of vision loss, the researchers said.

The study was scheduled for presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Chicago.

"Reading is a simple pleasure that we often take for granted until vision loss makes it difficult," study leader Dr. Daniel Roth, associate clinical professor at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, in Piscataway Township, N.J., said in an academy news release. "Our findings show that at a relatively low cost, digital tablets can improve the lives of people with vision loss and help them reconnect with the larger world."

Eye diseases such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy cause loss of central vision. Before digital tablets were invented, people with these diseases often relied on cumbersome lighted magnifiers for reading.

Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about vision loss.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology, news release, Nov. 11, 2012

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