February is low vision awareness month so today I wanted to go over what it is and what it is like to live with low vision.
What is Low Vision?
Low vision is a vision problem that makes it hard for patients to perform daily tasks. These vision problems cannot be fixed with traditional means of vision correction like glasses or contacts. Most people with low vision report difficulty reading, driving, recognizing faces, distinguishing colors, and seeing the TV or computer screen.
Different Types of Low Vision
There are a few different types of low vision and depend on the cause of vision loss. The most common types are:
-Central vision loss (most commonly caused by macular degeneration)
-Peripheral vision loss (most commonly caused by glaucoma)
-Blurry or hazy vision
What Causes Low Vision?
The most common causes for low vision include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. It is more common in older patients since these diseases typically are more prevalent in older adults. Eye and brain injuries and genetic diseases can also cause low vision.
How is Low Vision Diagnosed?
Low vision is diagnosed through a dilated eye exam. Your eye doctor will have you read letters at a distance and up close and will also check peripheral vision. Then, eye drops are used to make the pupil larger to check for diseases of the eye.
What is the Treatment for Low Vision?
Most causes for low vision is permanent and cannot be fixed with glasses, contacts, medication, or surgery. But, sometimes they can improve vision or keep it from getting worse. It just depends on the cause of the low vision.
“Treatment” for low vision is aimed at making the most of what vision that the patient has so that they can continue to do activities they enjoy doing.
If vision loss is minor, small changes may be made to help the patient see better. This could include using brighter lights, wearing anti-glare sunglasses, or using magnifiers for reading.
Low vision specialists can help patients learn how to use different tools like hand magnifiers, help set patient’s home up in ways that they are able to move around more easily, and sharing resources on how to mentally cope with vision loss.
Don’t let low vision stop you. Losing vision does not mean giving up activities that you love to do, but it may mean learning new ways to do them. Don’t isolate yourself and ask for the help you need. Friends are honored to help if asked. Staying home to avoid asking for help is not independence.