What Is Low Vision?
Low vision occurs when someone has an eye disease, injury or neurological change that cannot be corrected with glasses, contacts surgery or medication. Low vision is most common in people aged 65 and older, but it can affect anyone. Most people develop low vision due to: cataract, age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. Low vision can’t be reversed, but it can be managed.
Early Signs Of Low Vision
Signs of low vision may be experienced, with your regular glasses, when you have difficulty with the following: reading, recognizing familiar faces, cooking, picking out and matching the color of your clothes, or reading street signs. Anytime you experience vision changes, you should get an eye exam and anyone over age 50 should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Only an eye care provider can tell if you have low vision. A low vision assessment determines the extent of vision loss and the potential for vision rehabilitation.
Low Vision Functional Assessment
Low vision providers are focused on the impact of vision loss on function of life. An ophthalmologist or optometrist uses specialized equipment to determine the quantity and quality of an individual’s residual vision. The specialist in low vision will assess the following: your general health and eye health history, functions of daily living related to your vision, your visual acuity and other eye functions. Low vision providers are focused on how the loss of vision impacts ones ability to accomplish everyday activities and tasks.
Low Vision Rehabilitation Therapy
Low vision therapists work in collaboration with low vision ophthalmologists and optometrists. A rehabilitation therapy plan is developed and crafted with the individual’s goals and objectives as outcomes to work toward in therapy.
Low vision therapy offers tools and strategies for living with vision loss and for maintaining independence for basic activities of daily living. Therapy often includes the organization of the client’s environment including but not limited to: kitchen, medications, household, personal and finances. Low vision therapy also encompasses strategies, techniques and tools to help prevent accidents, teach new skills, modify tasks and make environmental modifications. The low vision therapist implements the rehab plan both in-clinic and in the home, with focus on strategies to make activities of daily living possible again. The end goal/s help increase an individual’s level of independence and overall quality of life.
Low Vision Devices – High-Tech, Low-Tech & No-Tech
Optical, digital, auditory, tactile devices and a variety of low vision adaptation skills are essential to a rehabilitation program. Depending on the needs and goals of the patient, low vision devices may be high-tech (computer screen reader software, iphone voiceover), low-tech (talking watch, large button telephone) or no-tech (large print note book, felt tip writing pen). Devices are often available through your local low vision provider, or through local distributors. High-tech/high-ticket devices are often offered by vendors with an in-home device demonstration to ensure client success with the equipment they procure. Training on the use of low vision assistive technology devices in the home is typically carried out by a Low Vision Therapist, Assistive Technology Specialist, or other Vision/Blind Rehabilitation Therapist.
What Can You Do If You Have Low Vision?
Seek out services and take action! Visit your eye care professional or a specialist in low vision. Ask your/your loved ones provider about vision rehabilitation therapy options and services.
Where Can You Go For Services?
Services are offered at ophthalmology or optometry offices that specialize in low vision, hospital clinics, state, nonprofit, or for-profit vision rehabilitation organizations, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities, hospitals, schools, in-the-home and through low vision therapy independent practitioners. Visit the National Institutes on Health – National Eye Institute for directories and more information: https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health.