Low vision is when even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people have difficulty seeing, which makes everyday tasks difficult to do. Activities that used to be simple like reading the mail, shopping, cooking, and writing can become challenging.
Most people with low vision are age 65 or older. The leading causes of vision loss in older adults are agerelated macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. Among younger people, vision loss is most often caused by inherited eye conditions, infectious and autoimmune eye diseases, or trauma. For people with low vision, maximizing their remaining sight is key to helping them continue to live safe, productive, and rewarding lives.
The first step is to seek help
What causes low vision?
- Most people with low vision are over 65 with leading causes being age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. AMD accounts for almost 45% of all low vision cases.
- Among younger people, low vision is usually caused by inherited eye conditions, infectious and autoimmune eye diseases, or trauma.
How many people have low vision?
- It’s estimated that 10 million Americans are blind or visually impaired.
- Visual impairment is among the top 10 disabilities in the U.S.
- Over the next couple of decades, the current number of blind or visually impaired Americans will double.
In observance of Low Vision Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to have a complete eye exam from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist. Getting a yearly exam increases the chances of early detection and diagnosis of conditions that may lead to vision loss. If you or someone you know has experienced significant vision loss, I encourage you to have a low vision examination.
A low vision examination is quite different from the basic examination routinely performed by primary care optometrists and ophthalmologists. A low vision examination includes a review of your visual and medical history, and places an emphasis on the vision needed to read, cook, work, study, travel, and peform and enjoy other common activities. The goals of a low vision exam include assessing the functional needs, capabilities, and limitations of your vision, assessing ocular and systemic diseases, and evaluating and prescribing low vision therapies. Education and counseling of family and other care providers; providing an understanding of your visual functioning to aid educators, vocational counselors, employers and care givers; directing further evaluations and treatments by other vision rehabilitation professionals; and making appropriate referrals for medical intervention are all a part of a low vision evaluation.
The low vision examination takes much longer than a typical eye exam, but the information gained can be invaluable. No matter what your visual acuity, it is important to understand any diagnosis you may receive and to keep your eyes as healthy as you possibly can.