Understanding Low Vision

January 4, 2008 by  
Filed under VISION

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* Are you having trouble recognizing faces you know are familiar?

* When you are reading, do the letters seem distorted or appear to be broken?

* Are you having trouble seeing obstacles below you like steps and curbs or around you such as walls or furniture?

If you’ve been experiencing one or more of these types of vision problems, you may have a condition called Low Vision.

What is Low Vision?

Low vision is a condition that results in a partial loss of vision. It is not considered blindness, which is a total loss of vision, but it is an impairment that can drastically alter a person’s quality of life. Basically Low Vision is a problem having to do with a person’s vision that cannot be corrected using traditional remedies such as corrective lenses, surgery, medication or contact lenses.


The most common form of Low Vision is one in which a person’s visual acuity is diminished. Acuity refers to the sharpness of an image. With Low Vision a person cannot see as many details. But Low Vision can also result when a person’s field of vision is obstructed, usually significantly. For example, the ability to see images off to the side may be affected. Or, an affected person may be considerably bothered by glare or by light.

Causes of Low Vision

The causes of Low Vision are many. Here are just a few of them: glaucoma, eye or head injury, stroke, cone-rod and rod-cone dystrophies, brain tumors or injury, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, optic and Leber’s optic atrophy, histoplasmosis, toxoplasmosis, optic nerve hypoplasis and heredity.

How to cope

As stated above, a vision loss of this nature can dramatically alter a person’s well-being. Tasks as simple as using a computer or reading a book become nearly impossible. Low Vision is to date untreatable and that along with the fact that Low Vision often means a loss of independence is enough to dampen any person’s spirit. Mobility may be impacted and oftentimes, those diagnosed with Low Vision are no longer able to operate motor vehicles as they are considered ‘legally’ blind. Sometimes affected individuals end up losing their jobs.

An Ophthalmologist’s only option is to work to improve the vision that remains as best as he or she can.

Vision aids

Fortunately, a number of vision aids are available for individuals with Low Vision. Hand-held illuminated and non-illuminated magnifiers are very popular options, as are magnifiers that can be stationed permanently in a stand. Adjustable stands are also available. These stand magnifiers are available as either battery-operated or electrical models and can be illuminated or non-illuminated.

Many different types of Low Vision eyeglasses are available as well. Reading spectacles, glasses with half-prisms, high-power bifocals and reading glasses, and microscopes and telescopes can help. There are monoculars, binoculars and absorptive lenses. And there are a number of different video magnifiers and other enlarging devices that have been created especially to help individuals with Low Vision resume a more normal way of life.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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