What is low vision?

Low vision aids

Did you know that FEBRUARY is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness month? In our previous post, we touched on what you need to know the world of AMD. In this post, we touch on all you need to know about Low Vision.

Low Vision is a condition where one has permanently-reduced vision that cannot be corrected or improved through standard refraction and ophthalmic and medical intervention, including regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery and where one’s ability to do normal tasks like reading is limited, though this varies from person to person.

Persons with Low Vision suffer visual impairment and their vision is less than 6/18 with a constricted visual field of less than 10 degrees from a point of fixation in the better eye. However, one has functional vision which can be utilised through use of Low Vision aids, environmental modification/adaptation and rehabilitation.

To Note:

(1) It is important to recognize the anger and frustration that you may feel after knowing you cannot regain your lost vision. It is advisable to get professional consultation with guidance and counselling from a Low Vision professional, such as a Low Vision therapist or rehabilitation officer.

(2) Having “Low Vision” is not the same as being “blind.” For example, your doctor may tell you that you have a blind or blank spot in the center of your vision that limits your ability to read or see people’s faces. Nevertheless, you can still get around using your side (or peripheral) vision.

Types of Low Vision
  • Loss of Central Vision: Persons with this type of Low Vision have a blur or blind spot, but a person’s side (peripheral) vision remains. This makes it difficult to read, recognise faces and distinguish most details in the distance. With side vision intact, however, mobility is usually unaffected.
  • Loss of Peripheral (Side) Vision:Persons who lose their peripheral vision cannot distinguish anything in one side or both sides of the eye or anything directly above and/or below eye level. Central vision remains intact, though, making it possible to see directly ahead. Typically, loss of peripheral vision affects mobility. If it is severe, it can slow reading speed because the person can only see a few words at a time.
  • Blurred Vision:With blurred vision, both near and far vision is out of focus, even with the best possible correction with eyeglasses.
  • Generalized Haze: People with generalised haze have the sensation of a film or glare that may extend over the entire viewing field.
  • Extreme Light Sensitivity: Extreme light sensitivity occurs when standard levels of light overwhelm a person’s visual system, producing a washed-out image and/or a glare. People with extreme light sensitivity may suffer pain or discomfort from relatively normal levels of light.
  • Night Blindness: People with night blindness cannot see outside at night under starlight or moonlight or in dimly lighted interior areas, such as movie theaters or restaurants.
Causes of Low Vision

Though Low Vision can occur at any age, normal aging of the eye does not lead to Low Vision. Certain conditions/occurrences have been known to cause Low Vision, such as:

Low Vision Aids

Losing vision does not mean giving up on your activities, but it does mean applying new ways of doing them. There are many Low Vision aids and devices to help you with your daily activities. Talk with your ophthalmologist/Low Vision therapist about solutions for your specific needs.

Below we outline good examples of Low Vision aids that can be of help to persons with Low Vision.

Optical Low Vision aids

These use magnifying lenses to make objects look larger and easier to see. Examples include:

  1. Magnifying spectacles: These are the magnifiers that are worn like eyeglasses to keep your hands free. They can be used for reading, threading a needle or doing other close-up tasks.
  2. Stand magnifiers: These magnifiers rest above the object you are looking at. This helps to keep the lens at a proper distance. That they are mounted on a stand is also quite helpful to people who have tremor or arthritis. Some stand magnifiers have built-in lights.
  3. Hand magnifiers: There are magnifiers designed to help with different amounts of vision.
  4. Video magnifiers: These electronic devices make printed pages, pictures or other small objects look bigger. You often can adjust them to meet your special vision needs. For instance, with some magnifiers you can add contrast to make printed words darker.
Non-optical Low Vision devices

These are designed to help with everyday tasks. Examples include:

  1. Audio books and electronic books: With audio books, you can listen to text that is read aloud while electronic books increase word size and contrast of texts.
  2. Smart phones and tablets: Theselet you change word size, adjust lighting and use voice commands. There also are many apps to choose from, such as programs that read material aloud, magnify or illuminate.
  3. Computers: There are computersthat can read aloud or magnify what is on the screen.
  4. Talking items:Watches, timers, blood pressure cuffs, and blood sugar machines are some of the talking items that can be of aid to persons with Low Vision.
  5. Large-print:Books, newspapers, magazines, playing cards and bank cheques with big-sized fonts.
  6. Telephones, thermostats, watches and remote controls:Large-sized numbers and high contrast colours on these devices are useful to persons with Low Vision.

Remember, you should have an eye exam regularly, at the very least once a year. Take advantage of this month being an AMD and Low Vision awareness month to have your eye exam.

Do you have any queries regarding Low Vision or any other query relating to eye health? Please place your query on the comment section below or contact us via: info@cityeyehospital.or.ke.

If you need medical attention, contact us via +254 (0) 707 777 707 or visit us at City Eye Hospital, Ngong Rd, Opposite Traffic Police Station, Nairobi, Kenya.

3 thoughts on “What is low vision?”

  1. Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

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