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Do you have low vision? Help is available

One in 20 Americans has vision too poor to read a newspaper with ease, watch television, read a product label while shopping, even with eyeglasses. Low vision is a term that is used to describe a significant vision loss that cannot be corrected fully with eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye medication or eye surgery.

Some people are born with low vision, but it can also be caused by health conditions that affect the eyes or an injury to the brain or eyes. A few of those conditions are as follows: albinism, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and other conditions such as traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Help is available for most patients that have low vision. If there is enough remaining vision to see the newspaper headlines (about an inch high) held an any distance, there is probability that vision may be improved by special magnifiers, lenses, technology or vision enhancement devices. The amount of benefit gained will depend on the amount of vision remaining, and one’s motivation along with appropriate goals and objectives. Special devices and training techniques are utilized to enable more efficient use of the remaining vision. Examples of activities include:

  • Reading — while using hand held magnifiers, high powered lens systems or electronic magnification devices can help with reading newspapers, the Bible, novels, bills, mail, recipes, or items on your phone.
  • Activities performed at arm’s length such as sewing, reading music or playing cards may require a specialized telescope or loupe.
  • Viewing recreational activities such as sport events, movies, concerts and television may be able to be helped with telescopic or bioptic devices.

Through low vision rehab services, vision is improved but not restored. With proper training, low vision rehabilitation devices enable a person to perform many visual tasks and activities with greater ease.

Low vision rehabilitation is not a substitute for any ongoing medical treatment, nor will it reverse the process of vision loss or restore sight. However, in many cases it can help improve and enhance as much of a person’s remaining vision as possible and assist in their independence and safety.

Marla L. Moon, O.D., F.A.A.O., is the director of the Vision Rehabilitation Center at Nittany Eye Associates.