Low Vision is a term used to describe a visual state that is ‘below normal’. Often people think someone is either blind or they are not blind. But there are many more people with Low Vision than there are people who are actually blind. This article will offer an understanding of Low Vision.
We think of ‘perfect vision’ as 20/20. The first 20 refers to the distance from your eyes to the chart. The second 20 refers to the row of letters that we think of as ‘perfect vision’ at that distance. There are actually letters smaller used for testing such as 20/15 and 20/10. However, not everyone can see the small letters on the chart. Over time, patients may develop cataract (clouding of the lens) or other degenerative conditions that can reduce their vision. Low Vision, however, refers to patients who have no options like surgery or other treatments to restore their vision to ‘normal’ levels.
Low Vision patients have sight. They are not blind. But they may struggle with certain activities and daily functions. Depending on the severity of the vision loss, low vision patients may have trouble with the following:
- Reading fine print, and in some cases difficulty reading any print
- Seeing in poor lighting situations.
- Mobility – it may be harder to see steps and curbs
- Telling the time on their watch
- Recogning faces
- Seeing the settings on the stove, food labels, and expiration dates
As you can see, when the vision is reduced, folks have trouble maintaining their independence. This is where Low Vision Rehabilitation can help. At a comprehensive evaluation by a Low Vision Specialist (Optometrist or Ophthalmologist), the doctor can determine the patient’s needs and goals. From there, a program can be set up that may include the following:
- New eyeglasses to improve the remaining vision
- Magnifiers to restore the ability to read
- Specialized task lighting to increase contrast and clarity
- Mobility training
- Visual training skills to help use the remaining vision more effectively
- Magnification systems designed to aid daily living tasks and to help in the work environment
- Computer modifications to improve visual function
It’s important that someone with Low Vision doesn’t give up. With the right help from a Low Vision Specialist, the right attitude, and with effort patients can maintain their independance and adapt to having low vision.