Low Vision

What is Low Vision?

Low vision is a term commonly used among eye care professionals to mean partial sight, or sight that is not fully correctable with surgery, pharmaceuticals, contact lenses, or glasses. Low vision includes loss of central vision, loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision), blind spots, and loss of color vision or vision in low light. It also includes legal blindness and almost total blindness. Yet, low vision differs from total blindness in that useful vision is still present and can often be improved with the use of special devices. This visual impairment generally interferes with a person's ability to perform everyday activities, with the impairment ranging from mild to severe. 

What are the causes of low vision?
Low vision has a variety of causes, including eye injury, diseases, and genetics. Sometimes low vision involves a lack of acuity, meaning that objects appear blurred. Other times, it involves a reduced ability to distinguish colors, see contrast, or determine spatial relationships among objects.

The eyesight of a person with low vision may be hazy from cataracts, blurred or partially obscured in the central visual zone because of macular degeneration, or distorted and/or blurred from diabetic retinopathy. Also, people with glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa can lose their peripheral vision and have difficulty seeing at night.

Children and adults can be visually impaired, sometimes as a result of a birth defect or an injury, but low vision is mostly a problem that afflicts seniors. Vision loss can be very traumatic, leading to frustration and depression. Many people who develop eye problems that cause low vision lose their jobs. According to Lighthouse International, among visually impaired Americans of ages 21 to 64, only 43.7% are employed. Among normally-sighted people in this age group, 80% are employed.

When a child has severe vision problems, it is very important to visit a low vision doctor who can prescribe the most appropriate vision aids. Ignoring a child's visual needs will result in poor performance in school.

What are the symptoms of low vision?

The symptoms of low vision cary depending on the cause of the problem and the location in the eye, but may include the following: 

  • Dark spots or wavy lines in the center of vision

  • Loss of side (peripheral) vision

  • Blurred or cloudy vision

  • Distorted vision

  • Double vision

  • Loss of color vision

How is Low Vision Detected? 

If low vision symptoms are present, the condition can be verified during a thorough low vision evaluation by our optometrists. Our optometrists can diagnose the underlying cuase, evaluate the degree and type of vision loss, and prescribe appropriate low vision aid and rehabilitation. 

How is Low Vision Treated? 

There are many different devices designed to be used for different types of low vision. These include both optical and non-optical devices. Our optometrist will demonstrate various devices so that we can find the best option for you. 

Optical Devices

  • Magnifying glasses

  • Hand-held or stand magnifiers

  • Telescopes and telescopic glasses

  • Closed-circuit television with adjustable image size and contrast

  • Special lenses for reducing glare

Non-Optical Devices

  • Large-print reading materials

  • Books on tape

  • Enlarged phone dials

  • Clock or waches with large numerals, high contrast, or lighting features

  • Reading machines that can scan printed material and read it aloud

  • Check-writing guides

  • High-intensity lighting with adjustable arms placed close to work area

  • Visors for blocking overhead light

What can be done to protect low vision? 

Low vision is not a normal result of aging. Our optometrists can detect the diffference between normal changes in the aging eye and those cause by eye diseases. yearly comprehensive eye examinations should be performed by our optometrsits. Early diagnosis of the diseases that cause low vision increases the chance that treatment will eliminate further vision loss. 

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