Low Vision

What is low vision?

Crowd seen through blurry vision

Low vision is a term that refers to a significant visual impairment that can’t be fixed with prescription glasses, contact lenses, or eye surgery. People with low vision have some sight available, but typically have difficulty with side vision and blind spots.

What causes low vision?

Low vision is most often the result of eye disease, genetic birth defects, injury, or old age.

Some of the more common causes of low vision include:

What are the symptoms of low vision?

It’s common for individuals with low vision to experience symptoms such as:

  • Loss of central vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Extreme difficulty seeing at night
  • Poor depth perception
  • Glare sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Hazy vision

How is low vision diagnosed?

Woman in glasses playing guitar with son

Only a licensed eye care specialist can diagnose low vision. Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if vision problems prevent you from doing routine activities such as reading, driving, working, or going to school. During your exam, your doctor will use specialized equipment and tests to evaluate your visual acuity, depth perception, and field of vision.

How is low vision treated?

While some patients can have their vision restored or maintained while receiving treatment for eye disease, low vision results in permanent vision loss. There are, however, visual aids that can help make daily life a little easier for people with low vision.

Some popular devices include:

  • Hand-held and stand magnifying glasses
  • Strongly magnified reading glasses
  • Electronic magnifying systems
  • Reading stands
  • Glare-resistant sunglasses

Computer technology can also assist low vision patients. Text-reading and voice-to-text software on mobile devices and tablets are just a few advanced features that may be helpful for people with significant visual impairment.

Regular rehabilitation sessions with a low vision specialist can also provide important skills for adjusting to low vision and performing daily tasks.

What to expect from a low vision specialist

Low vision specialists are licensed doctors of optometry or ophthalmology who are trained to examine and manage patients with significant visual impairments. The goal of a low vision specialist is not to offer a cure for low vision, but to provide education and rehabilitation services that teach the patient how to utilize their remaining vision to its fullest potential.

A visit to a low vision specialist may include a low vision evaluation, training on how to complete visual tasks, education on how to choose a low vision device, or personalized therapy for how to cope with depression or anxiety that manifests as a result of severe vision loss.

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