Low vision is a significant vision impairment that results from serious eye disease or an injury. The vision loss, which is characterized by either reduced visual acuity or reduced field of view, can not be fully corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery.
Low vision can affect both children and older individuals, but is more common in the elderly, who are at greater risk of eye disease.
What causes low vision and how does low vision affect eyesight?
The leading causes of low vision are heredity, eye injury or brain injury, or eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or retinitis pigmentosa. Depending on the severity and type of vision impairment, the patient may still have some useful vision. Typically, the impairment includes a significant reduction in visual acuity to worse than 20/70, hazy, blurred vision, blind spots or significant visual field loss and tunnel vision.
How does low vision affect daily life?
With significant vision loss it can become challenging to complete common daily tasks including reading, writing, cooking and housework, watching television, driving or even recognizing people.
When low vision is diagnosed it can come as a shock. Initially, it is an adjustment to learn how to function with impaired vision, but the good news is there are numerous resources and products available to assist. Because low vision often results in one’s inability to work, function independently, drive and resume normal life, many patients feel isolated and depressed.
Visual Rehabilitation and Visual Aids
Low vision, in contrast to blindness, means that a minimal amount of sight remains intact. There are millions of people who suffer from low vision and manage to function with their remaining vision through the use of visual rehabilitation or visual aids.
What are visual aids?
These are devices that help people with low vision function by maximizing their remaining eyesight. This often involves the use of magnifiers (handheld, mounted or stand-alone), telescopes and other tools to enlarge the images of objects to make them more visible. Finding the right visual aid is a matter of consulting with a professional and experimenting with what works for you and your daily needs.
How to make life with low vision easier
- Ensure that you have adequate lighting in your home. This may require some trial and error with different lights and voltages to determine what works best for you.
- Use a magnifier. There is a vast selection of magnifiers available, ranging from hand-held to stand magnifiers. Binoculars and spectacle mounted magnifiers are also an option.
- Your optometrist or low vision specialist can recommend specialized lens tints for certain conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa which enhance vision or reduce light sensitivity.
- Use large print books or audio books for reading.
- Adding a high-contrast stripe on steps (bright color on dark staircase, or black stripe on light stairs) can help prevent falls in people with low vision and may enable them to remain independent in their home.
- Find out by researching what other technology is available to help make your life simpler.
If you or a loved one has low vision, do not despair. Consult with our eye doctor about the best course of action to take to simplify life with low vision.
- How to Cope with Low Vision
Any signs of vision loss should prompt a visit to your optometrist; if you have a problem that cannot be corrected with eyewear or surgery, low vision aids can often help.
- Low Vision Aids for Computer Users
Innovative low vision devices for computers can help visually-impaired people stay connected with friends and the online world.