Low Vision Awareness Month- Things you need to know about low vision

What is low vision?

Low vision is a situation when you are not able to perform functions like reading, cooking, writing, driving, watching TV, etc, even with the help of eyeglasses, contact lenses, surgery and medications.Millions of Americans lose some of their eyesight every passing year, and the number is constantly increasing.  While any person can fall a prey to this problem, it is most common among people more than 65 years of age. The common causes of low vision are certain eye or health disorders including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, diabetes, and glaucoma. Eye injuries and birth defects are some other causes. Whatever the cause, lost vision cannot be restored. It can, however, be managed with proper treatment and vision rehabilitation. You should visit an eye care professional if you experience any changes to your eyesight.

How do I know if I have low vision?

We have compiled a list of common signs of low vision. Go through them and check if you face issues while performing following tasks even when you are wearing your spectacles or contact lenses-

  • Recognizing the faces of family and friends?
  • Reading, cooking, sewing, or fixing things around the house?
  • Selecting and matching the color of your clothes?
  • Seeing clearly with the lights on or feeling like they are dimmer than normal?
  • Reading traffic signs or the names of stores?

These could all be early warning signs of vision loss or eye disease. The sooner vision loss or eye disease is detected by an eye care professional, the greater your chances of keeping your remaining vision.

How do I know when to get an eye exam?

You should schedule a visit to your eye care professional every 2-3 months, even if you do not use power lenses. In case, you are more than 65 years, you should increase the frequency of tests and should opt for a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Following are the common symptoms of low vision

  • Loss of central vision
  • Night blindness
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Hazy vision

What can I do if I have low vision?

  • The first you should have to help you with your vision loss is an excellent support system. You have to understand the need of assistance and help because, trust me, low vision can be hard on you and you need a team to work on it. Trying to treat it solely can lead you to disappointment- physically and psychologically. You can always count on Occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, certified low vision therapists, counselors, and self help groups to help you with your problem.
  • Second, talk with your eye care professional about your vision problems. Even though it may be difficult, ask for help. Find out where you can get more information about support services and adaptive devices. Also, find out which services and devices are best for you and which will give you the most independence.
  • Third, ask about vision rehabilitation, even if your eye care professional says that “nothing more can be done for your vision.” Vision rehabilitation programs offer a wide range of services, including training for magnifying and adaptive devices, ways to complete daily living skills safely and independently, guidance on modifying your home, and information on where to locate resources and support to help you cope with your vision loss. Medicare may cover part or all of a patient’s occupational therapy, but the therapy must be ordered by a doctor and provided by a Medicare Approved healthcare provider.
  • Finally, be persistent. Remember that you are your best healthcare advocate. Explore your options, learn as much as you can, and keep asking questions about vision rehabilitation. In fact, write down questions to ask your doctor before your exam, and bring along a notepad to jot down answers.

There are many resources to help people with low vision, and many of these programs, devices, and technologies can help you maintain your normal, everyday way of life.

What questions should I ask my eye care professionals?

An important part of any doctor–patient relationship is effective communication. Here are some questions to ask your eye care professional or specialist in low vision to jumpstart the discussion about vision loss. Ask your doctor for the following queries-

  • What changes can you expect in your vision?
  • Will your vision loss get worse?
  • How much of your vision will you lose?
  • Will regular eyeglasses improve your vision?
  • What medical or surgical treatments are available for your condition?
  • What can you do to protect or prolong your vision?
  • Will diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes help?
  • If your vision can’t be corrected, can he/she refer you to a specialist in low vision?
  • Where can you get vision rehabilitation services?
  • How can your continue your  normal, routine activities?
  • Are there resources to help you in your  job?
  • Will any special devices help you with daily activities like reading, sewing, cooking, or fixing things around the house?
  • What training and services are available to help you live better and more safely with low vision?
  • Where can you find individual or group support to cope with your vision loss?

That was all we had to mention to generate awareness about low vision, as we are celebrating this February as National Low Vision Awareness Month. Let us know your experiences in comment section, and share this article with your friends and family to create awareness about the same and make the world a healthier place.