Low Vision

People classified in ophthalmological terms have reduced vision if their sight remains poor regardless of optical corrective treatments used to try and enhance the quality of their vision.

Who may have low vision?

Anyone who has experienced a congenital disease, optic trauma or a visual degenerative condition may have low vision even when wearing glasses or corrective lenses. Their sight tends to remain the same even with surgery or medication.

How do people know if they have low vision?

Common experiences of people with low vision are: difficulty seeing, (such as when writing, reading, watching television), difficulty learning and difficulty identifying colours and other people. Problems with sight due to reduced vision may include blurry sight and missing out sections when reading or seeing. People with low vision may strain to try and see and feel tired and anxious at not being able to see properly. They may also experience injury if they can't see clearly where they are walking or what they are doing.

Eyes should be regularly checked by an Optician for any signs of conditions that can cause low vision or permanent optic damage.

What types of conditions cause low vision?

There are a number of factors that can cause reduced sight, including:

  • Congenital diseases present at birth, such as Leber's congenital amaurosis or retinitis pigmentosa.
  • Degenerative eye conditions, such as Glaucoma or Trachoma, Macular Degeneration and Optic Atrophy.
  • Health conditions, such as Diabetes causing Diabetic Retinopathy.
  • Genetic conditions, such as Albinism.
  • Eye injuries, such as those caused by contact sports or chemicals.

Ageing is not thought to be a cause of reduced vision, however, sight loss in people over age 65 can manifest as low vision.

How is low vision diagnosed and treated?

When an Optician tests the eyes during an optical assessment low vision may be identified because the sight doesn’t improve, even with lenses designed for better vision. An Optician may then make a referral to an Ophthalmologist for further tests, because only a doctor qualified in evaluating comprised vision function can diagnose a visual impairment. Patients are then advised about treatment or sight rehabilitation options, which may include:

  • Information for decision-making.
  • Workplace and home adaption.
  • Low vision devices or optical aids.
  • Assistive or adaptive technology, such as text-to-speech computer programmes and audio-books.
  • Learning Braille.

What is the prognosis and affect on living?

People with low vision or visual impairment are considered to have an irreversible disability and are in need of support through medical channels, family, friends, employers and community groups. Communicating their needs to others and the impact of their sight impairment on daily living will help others to understand how best to meet their needs. Low vision can cause people to withdraw, feel depressed or live isolated lives. By seeking medical help people with reduced vision learn about their disability and how best to receive the help that they need for improved health and well-being.

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