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What Is Low Vision?
Low vision is a diminished level of vision that cannot be fully corrected with conventional glasses. It’s not the same as blindness. Unlike a person who’s blind, a person with low vision has some useful sight. However, low vision usually interferes with the operation of daily activities, like reading or driving. A person with low vision might not recognize images at a space or be able to differentiate colors of similar tones.
You’re legally blind if your best corrected central acuity is less than 20/200 (ideal visual acuity is 20/20) in your better eye, or your side vision is narrowed to 20 degrees or less in your better eye. People who are legally blind may still have some useful vision. If you’re legally blind, then you may be eligible for certain government benefits. It’s projected that approximately 17 percent of individuals over the age of 65 are blind or have low vision.
- Difficulty recognizing objects in a distance (street signs or bus signals)
- Difficulty identifying colors (especially from the green-blue-violet array)
- Difficulty seeing well up close (cooking or reading)
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Your eye doctor can tell the difference between regular changes which are common with age and changes caused by eye disorder.
Even though low vision can occur at any stage in life, it mostly affects the elderly, but is not a normal part of aging. Although men and women encounter some physiological changes with age (presbyopia), these changes typically do not lead to low vision. Most men and women develop low vision because of eye diseases. When vision impairment is recognized early, treatment may be more effective, allowing people to maintain as much freedom as possible.
Tests and Analysis
To determine the extent of your vision that is useful, you’ll have to have your eyes examined. The exam for low vision differs from a typical eye exam. During a low vision examination, your doctor may administer these tests:
- Refraction (to assess your vision and decide the prescription for your glasses, if eyeglasses may be of any use)
Since low vision examinations may involve a variety of tests, they are usually more time consuming than standard examinations. For instance, refraction may be done through a telescope or trial lens frame so it is possible to judge which lens is best.
Treatment and Medicines
Professional eye clinics should embrace a multi-disciplinary approach to treating low vision. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and occupational therapists make up the group of healthcare professionals who work with you starting with your vision examination, and continuing along with you to identify treatment alternatives, including:
- Optical devices to help you accommodate, like magnifiers, telephones, or closed-circuit televisions
- Techniques to help you use your remaining vision
- Adaptive non-optical devices, for example large-print cookbooks and talking watches.
Occupational therapy programs may last as long as many months or be as short as one session. Sessions may include an evaluation of your surroundings and suggestions for modifying your home to allow you to become more independent and to improve safety.
Many types of assistive devices are available to help individuals with reduced vision. These items include special glasses, other magnification devices, and large print reading materials. Other communication aids include computer software and various other technological devices.