Low Vision: What Is It?

Low Vision: What Is It? Written over a blurry picture of an eye.

Low vision is a permanent state of visual impairment. My vision is very poor without contacts, but I don’t have a clinical diagnosis of low vision. That’s because my contacts do an excellent job of correcting my vision.

People with low vision do not get a good correction from eyeglasses, contacts, surgery, or medication. Low vision can interfere with everyday activities and limit an individual’s independence.

Vision and Aging

Eye disease does not always present with symptoms early on. It’s important for people over the age of 50 to get a regular eye exam to detect and treat any possible conditions. Early treatment can help prevent vision loss.

Some of the most common problems include:

  • Cataracts
  • Dry eye
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • General Low Vision

According to the National Eye Health Education Program, “…4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older are visually impaired. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, this number is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.”


Glaucoma is not just one thing. It is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. The damage is caused by pressure from fluid build up inside the eye. Early glaucoma has no symptoms, which is why it’s important to get tested for it.

Some people are at higher risk for glaucoma than others, but everyone over age 60 should be checked regularly. Approximately half the people that have glaucoma don’t know it. Glaucoma affects your peripheral view. It will narrow your field of vision, and if left untreated, can eventually cause total blindness. Vision loss from glaucoma can never be repaired.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease also includes more than one type of impairment. Diabetes can cause cataracts and glaucoma, but diabetic retinopathy is the most common visual complication.

Diabetic retinopathy is the number one cause of vision loss and blindness in adults. The risk of developing it increases the longer you have lived with diabetes. The National Institute of Health says, “Chronically high blood sugar from diabetes is associated with damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy….Diabetic retinopathy can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak fluid or hemorrhage (bleed), distorting vision. In its most advanced stage, new abnormal blood vessels proliferate (increase in number) on the surface of the retina, which can lead to scarring and cell loss in the retina.”

Creating awareness is essential because diabetic eye diseases also have no symptoms in the early stages.


Cataracts develop slowly and don’t usually give any immediate warning that they have started to form. Cataracts impair vision by making the lens of your eye cloudy. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Cloudy or blurred vision
  • Increased difficulty with night vision
  • Need for brighter light when reading or doing tasks
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Fading of colors

Although small cataracts may not interfere much with your vision, your sight will worsen as they continue to grow. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.

The treatment for cataracts is surgery. Fortunately, cataract surgery is a common and procedure and is usually safe and effective.

Low Vision Awareness Month

February is Low Vision Awareness Month. With an aging population, awareness of the importance of regular eye exams could greatly reduce the number of people who develop low vision in the future. Make it your goal to share with someone the facts about low vision. If they’ve not seen a doctor recently, encourage them to make an appointment today.

Are you developing low vision? ILA has over 100 products to help make your life easier and your tasks more manageable. You can find them here.

Photo by Daniil Avilov on Unsplash


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