Low Vision describes a functional visual loss. Conventional glasses are not able to address the needs of a patient requiring low vision aids. A person with low vision has severely reduced visual acuity or contrast sensitivity, a significantly obstructed field of vision or all three. Although low vision can occur at any stage in life, it primarily affects the elderly. However, low vision is not a consequence of natural aging changes. Some of the most common causes of low vision include glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
Symptoms of Low Vision
- Difficulty recognizing familiar faces or recognizing objects at a distance, like street signs or bus signs.
- Difficulty reading with print text appearing broken, distorted or incomplete
- Difficulty seeing objects and potential hazards such as steps, curbs, walls, uneven surfaces and furniture.
- Difficulty differentiating colors, particularly in the green-blue-violet range.
- Difficulty navigating and orienting oneself to surroundings
- Difficulty with normal activities of daily living
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have low vision. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam. Your eye doctor can tell the difference between normal changes which are common with age, and changes caused by eye disease.
Improving Your Functional Vision with the Help of Low Vision Devices
If your vision loss can't be corrected by medical or surgical interventions, an ophthalmologist or optometrist specializing in low vision can evaluate how you see and prescribe optical devices to maximize your remaining vision. This functional vision assessment is an important step in helping improve your quality of life.
Even with regular eyeglasses or contact lenses, any visual image, whether it is a sentence from a book or a crosswalk at a busy intersection, may appear distorted, blurred or incomplete if you have low vision. A low vision doctor may recommend or prescribe devices such as magnifiers and tinted lenses to help you take full advantage of the sight you have. Non-optical devices such as large-print clocks and remote controls, as well as signature and writing guides, are also popular. In addition, vision rehabilitation can help. Vision rehabilitation services equip you with skills and strategies to help you remain safe, independent and active at any stage of life.
Low Vision Exams
To determine the extent of your useful vision, you will need to have your eyes examined. Because low vision examinations may involve a variety of tests, they are often more time consuming than the standard examination. For instance, refraction may be done through a telescope or trial lens so you can judge which lens is best.
Ophthalmologists, optometrists and occupational therapists make up the team of health care professionals who will work with you in examining your eyes and identifying treatment options which include:
- Optical devices that will help you adapt, such as magnifiers, telescopes or digital devices
- Techniques that will help you utilize your remaining vision.
- Environmental modifications to maximize your remaining vision.
- Adaptive non-optical devices, such as large-print cookbooks and talking watches.
At Fromer Eye Centers, we work with the NYC Community Coalition on Aging and Vision to help guide you with the proper resources to fit your visual needs and goals.
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