What You Need to Know About Low Vision

What You Need to Know About Low Vision

“Not all forms of vision impairment come with a guide dog and a white stick.”

This quote, by Sarah Coats, was featured in The Mighty article, “23 Truths Blind and Visually Impaired People Wish Others Understood.” There is a lot of misinformation about low vision. February is the month designated to promote awareness about what low vision is, and make people aware of the benefits of vision rehabilitation.

Vision Rehabilitation

The term “vision rehabilitation” may cause some confusion. We usually think of rehabilitation as a process where you work from being sick or injured to not having those difficulties anymore. And when we’re talking about vision loss, it may seem that in many cases rehabilitation isn’t possible. Once your vision is gone, it’s gone.

But vision rehabilitation has a much broader meaning. While it can include medications or surgical procedures, it also includes adaptation. The focus of vision rehabilitation is for people to maintain their current lifestyle, no matter what new devices or skills are needed.

Vision rehabilitation is usually done by a team of professionals. Often there is an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision. They may be supported by occupational therapists, mobility specialists, low vision therapists, counselors, and social workers.

The focus of the program is usually on how to use devices, such as magnifiers, or other adaptive equipment, how to go through your activities of daily living safely and independently, and how to modify your home to make it more accessible.

Who Has Low Vision?

Just because someone has low vision does not mean they are completely blind. Many people with low vision can see light, shapes, and colors to varying degrees. Sometimes just having better lighting, more contrast, or larger letters can help someone with low vision be able to read or manipulate an item.

There are many causes of low vision. One of the most common health conditions that causes low vision is age-related macular degeneration. Cataracts, diabetes, and glaucoma also damage your eyes. These are conditions that are typically found in older adults. But birth defects and eye injuries can cause low vision at any time of life. That said, low vision is most common in people over the age of 65.

Signs of Vision Loss

Because vision loss can come on gradually, sometimes it’s hard to catch the early signs and symptoms. And if you wear contacts or glasses, you may just think your prescription needs to be updated.

But because lost vision can often not be restored, it’s important to go in for a check-up if you see any symptoms of possible eye disease. Some of the signs include:

  • Being more hesitant to get outside the house or around the neighborhood
  • Having trouble recognizing faces
  • Not being able to see well enough to sew or do small crafts or tasks
  • Having trouble seeing the difference between color shades

If you have signs of vision loss, the sooner you go to see the doctor, the more likely it is that you will be able to retain some of your vision.

ILA has many products that help with vision rehabilitation and independence around the home. Check out our VISION page to see all the categories.