Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery, people find everyday tasks difficult to achieve. Most people develop low vision because of eye diseases and health conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetes. Some develop vision loss after eye injuries or from birth defects.
There are many ways that eye diseases can affect vision. Depending on the cause of vision loss, symptoms can range from hazy or foggy vision, sensitivity to light, and distorted or wavy vision. Lighting conditions and daily variations can occur causing one to have “good days and bad days” with their vision. Additionally, patients report “come & go” or “now I see it, now I don’t” vision. This is because they are experiencing a blind spot in their vision. For all of these reasons, activities such as reading, shopping, cooking, seeing the TV, and writing can seem challenging.
Living with a visual impairment can be difficult, however, rehabilitation programs, devices, and technology can help you adapt to vision loss and maintain your independence. The best way to gain access to these treatments is to schedule an appointment for evaluation with a low vision specialist. These are doctors of optometry that provide rehabilitation for patients with visual diseases and disorders. During a low vision evaluation, you can address the functional limitations of your vision especially when performing daily activities. These specialists work to improve a person’s functioning by maximizing the remaining vision the person has. They may prescribe handheld magnifiers, special microscopes, high powered reading glasses or video magnification systems to help patients who have difficulty reading a newspaper, a book, or their mail. Other devices can help patients to stop losing their place while reading. Telescopic systems can help patients see better from a distance, especially when sitting closer to the TV or having a bigger TV doesn’t seem to help. To decrease glare and light sensitivity indoors, special filters can be used in the patient’s general eyewear. Even considerations such as wearing adequate sun protection outdoors may be discussed in an effort to decrease a patient’s light sensitivity and photophobia.
In a recent visit, a long term AMD patient of the practice was seen for a low vision evaluation. She has not been able to watch TV, read, cook, or manage her bills. Even though her family purchased a 56” TV she found herself listening to TV, rather than watching. She was also receiving books on tape because she could not read the large print books anymore. It had been over 5 years since she was able to see that big “E” on the eye chart. With a telescopic pair of glasses her vision improved to 20/50. She was able to watch TV, see pictures of her grandkids, read, and cook again and became less dependent on others for her care.
Low vision care is important in improving the patient’s quality of life. Losing eyesight takes a tremendous emotional toll and has often been compared to losing a loved one. One must grieve the loss of vision as well as overcome the anger and depression that happens at later stages. Many patients initially deny that they are losing their vision or that their vision is getting worse. They may not seek treatment because of this denial that there is a problem with their eyes. Unfortunately, waiting is the worst thing patients with vision problems can do. Early treatment may mean less vision loss and a better prognosis long term. Low vision care is important in helping patients keep their independence and understand that they can do things they enjoy, but may have to do it in different ways. When your vision reaches 20/40 or worse, or if it has caused you to give up doing something you love, you should seek out the care of a low vision specialist without delay!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Dayna Luckey, our low vision specialist, please call our office at 610-384-9100.