Signs of Low Vision
Low vision is often caused by these eye conditions:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Detached retina
The most common types of eyesight loss that result in low vision include:
- Central vision loss, which creates a blur or blind spot in the center of your vision, but leaves your peripheral (outside of center) vision intact
- Peripheral vision loss, which leaves central vision clear, but makes it hard or impossible to see to the side or above and below your central line of sight
- Blurred vision, in which everything you see is blurred, regardless of how near or far away things are
- Extreme light sensitivity, in which even normal light causes your eyesight to wash out; you might even feel pain from exposure to normal light levels
- Hazy sight, which feels as though a film, fog, or glare is obscuring your eyesight
- Night blindness, in which you find it impossible to see outside at night or in darkened areas
If you think you might have low vision, test yourself while wearing your glasses to see if:
- You have trouble picking out clothing that matches, either by pattern or color
- You find it difficult to recognize the faces of friends and relatives
- Lights that should be bright seem dimmed
- You struggle to read street signs or make out the names of stores
- You have trouble performing up-close activities like reading, sewing, cooking, or home repairs
If any of these signs sound familiar, you should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist to have your eyesight evaluated.
Maximizing Your Remaining Eyesight
There are many devices available to help people with low vision overcome their vision problems, such as:
- Magnifying glasses or lenses. These are available as hand-held aids or are mounted in frames.
- Large-print objects. Books, newspapers, magazines, telephones, thermostats, remote controls, bank checks, and playing cards are just a few of the many household objects that can come with larger type for the visually impaired; many computers are capable of magnifying text and pictures with a simple keystroke.
- Talking devices. Watches, timers, and other household devices can be purchased in "talking" versions. Talking models of medical devices like blood pressure and blood glucose monitors are also available. Computer users can purchase screen-reading software that will read aloud words on a monitor. People can also purchase books-on-tape or borrow them from libraries.
To maximize your vision and make your home more livable, also consider these steps:
- Improve the lighting in your home.
- Shield your eyes when outside. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes from bright sunlight outdoors if you experience light sensitivity.
- Redesign your environment for better visibility. Choose colors that provide maximum contrast in your home to help you see objects better. For example, putting a dark light switch on a white wall will improve the visibility of the switch, and placing light tape on the edge of a dark-colored stairwell will help you avoid a fall. Eliminate carpeting and furniture with striped, plaid, or checked patterns, as they can be visually confusing.
- Use your other senses. Different textures can help you function around the house even with poor eyesight. For example, when you walk off carpeting onto tile, you'll be able to tell you've left the living room for the kitchen.