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What is low vision? Basically, "low vision" describes significant visual impairment that can't be corrected fully with glasses, contact lenses, medication or eye surgery. It includes:

  • Loss of best-corrected visual acuity (BVCA) to worse than 20/70 in the better eye.
  • Significant visual field loss. Tunnel vision (lack of vision in the periphery) and blind spots are examples of visual field loss.
  • Legal blindness. In North America this is 20/200 or less central visual acuity in the better eye with best possible correction, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.
  • Almost total blindness.
  • In 2010 the prevalence of visual disability in the United States was 2.1 percent. This includes both low vision and total blindness.

Causes of Low Vision

  Eye diseases are a common cause of low vision:

  • Hazy, blurry vision can result from cataracts.
  • Blurred or partially obscured central vision is typical of macular degeneration.
  • Heredity and eye injuries also can result in low vision.
  • Diabetic retinopathy causes blind spots, blurriness and visual distortions.
  • Poor peripheral vision is a hallmark of glaucoma.
  • Retinitis pigmentosa reduces peripheral vision and the ability to see in the dark.
  • Light sensitivity and loss of contrast are other symptoms of these and other diseases.

What To Do About Low Vision

 If you have a vision impairment that interferes with your ability to perform everyday activities and enjoy life, your first step is to see an eye care professional for a complete eye exam.

Poor vision that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses could be the first sign of a serious eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa.

Or it could mean you are developing a cataract that needs removal. Whatever the case, it's wise to take action before further vision loss occurs. 

If your eye doctor finds that you have vision loss that cannot be corrected adequately with standard eyewear, medical treatment or surgery, he or she will help you take the next steps toward coping with your new situation.

An eye doctor who doesn't work in the low vision area would refer you to a low vision specialist.

A low vision specialist can evaluate the degree and type of vision loss you have, prescribe appropriate low vision aids such as lighted handheld magnifiers, digital desktop magnifiers and bioptic telescopes, and help you learn how to use them.

Newer options include handheld digital magnifiers for shopping or eating out, as well as software that simplifies computer use with magnification and text-to-speech features.

The low vision specialist also can recommend non-optical adaptive devices, such as large-face printed material, audio recordings, special light fixtures and signature guides for signing checks and documents. Special eyewear with tinted UV filters can help with light sensitivity and heighten contrast.

Call today to schedule an appointment with our low vision doctor, Kennan Doan, O.D. at 501-225-4488