Thriving with Low Vision: The Role of a Low Vision Optometrist

Types of Vision Loss 

Low vision is a term used for types of visual impairment where conventional corrective measures such as regular glasses, contact lenses, and surgical or medical treatment cannot adequately correct the deficit. It often presents with the following forms of visual symptoms:

Visual field loss
Problems with light sensitivity or perception
Hazy vision
Blurred vision
Loss of peripheral vision which creates a "tunnel vision" effect

Low vision is the result of partial but irreversible visual impairment. A diagnosis does not mean that you are blind. It just means that you have problems that cannot be corrected with conventional interventions, and that you may require vision devices and training to enhance your remaining eyesight. In most instances, a person retains some degree of vision that usually responds well to specialty glasses or other vision aid.

A Low Vision Optometrist Can Help You!

Many people with this condition are told by eyecare professionals that there is nothing that can be done to help them.

Specialists in low vision care recommend an array of specialty devices and aids such as bioptic telescopes, magnifiers, and non-optical devices that can be used to improve the ability to engage in routine and recreational activities. These include activities such as watching television, reading newspapers, and recognizing people’s faces. Some people are even able to drive! A low vision optometrist not only recommends the best devices for your needs, they also help the patient and their families understand the myriad of changes and emotions, and serve as a trusted resource during this difficult and confusing time. 

The important thing to know is that with proper and timely intervention, most people are able to enjoy a high quality of life and continue participating in their favorite activities.

Looking Through the Eyes of a Low Vision Patient

Although visual impairment and its impact on daily life varies depending on the condition and how it developed, the important thing to remember is that there are solutions that will enable most low vision patients to lead an independent and happy life, despite permanent loss of vision. Unfortunately many low vision patients are told that there is nothing more that can be done, and while the loss of vision may be permanent, there is so much more that can be done. From small things like tips for activities of daily living, lighting, and giving family members context and understanding, to large things like bioptic telescopes for driving, specialty glasses for the TV, or contrast training, we have never lived in a time where there is so much more that can be done!

What Causes Low Vision?

There are a variety of diseases, disorders, and types of eye injury affecting the optic nerve that may cause impairment and a diagnosis of low vision. These include types of acute and traumatic brain injury. Medical conditions that are known to cause this condition include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, corneal diseases, optic nerve atrophy, and strokes. Age-related macular degeneration accounts for almost 45 percent of such cases.

Early Detection and Treatment

Most eye conditions and diseases have no early symptoms. In the case of low vision, standard corrective measures such as contact lenses, specialty glasses, optical and non-optical aids, and surgery don't work. This is why yearly eye exams with an optometrist are recommended, particularly for those with a family history of eye disease. Early detection of low vision can often help minimize vision loss.

If an optometrist has diagnosed you with low vision or if you suspect you may have this condition, contact a listed practice to schedule an eye evaluation and discuss the use of different vision aids and devices to improve your quality of life.