Low vision is considered significant vision impairment that usually results from serious eye disease or an injury. The vision loss, which is characterized by either reduced visual acuity (to 20/70 or worse) or reduced field of view, can’t be fully corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery.
Low vision can affect both children and older individuals, but is more common in the elderly, who are at greater risk of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts, which are some of the most common causes of the condition.
What causes low vision and how does low vision affect eyesight?
Among the leading causes of low vision are heredity, eye injury or brain injury, or eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or retinitis pigmentosa. Depending on the severity and type of vision impairment, the patient may have some useful vision. Typically the impairment includes a significant reduction in visual acuity to worse than 20/70, hazy, blurred vision, blind spots or significant visual field loss and tunnel vision. Sometimes the extent of vision loss is considered to be legal blindness (20/200 or less visual acuity in the better eye) or almost total blindness.
How does low vision affect daily life?
With significant vision loss it can become challenging to complete common daily tasks including reading, writing, cooking and housework, watching television, driving or even recognizing people.
When low vision is diagnosed it can come as a shock. Initially, it is an adjustment to learn how to function with impaired vision but the good news is there are numerous resources and products available to assist. Because low vision often results in one’s inability to work, function independently, drive and resume normal life, many patients feel isolated and depressed.
- Thorough examination by an Optometrist
- Possible Occupational Therapy Evaluation to determine Functional Vision Skills in daily living tasks.
- Treatment plans may include prescription of glasses, specialized optical systems, therapeutic filters, magnification devices, adaptive equipment and the prescription of Occupational Therapy for training or adapting tasks to effectively maximize visual functioning for activities of daily living.
Chris VandeZande, OTR/L, COVT uses her Occupational Therapy background to assist in problem solving one’s daily living tasks to ensure the most optimum process is used and determine if any adaptations can be made in one’s environment. An Occupational Therapist’s role is to ensure safety while improving an individual’s daily and leisure living skills. Chris has also had additional training through the American Occupational Therapy Association’s professional course recommendation on Low vision Training through visABILITIES Rehab Services.
Occupational Therapy training sessions beyond the evaluation/recommendations may consist of exercises to improve fixation of the better seeing eye, improve tracking, and utilizing periphery skills to maximize the vision that remains. Sessions may also address education and hands on practice with various magnification devices, adapting the home environment to recommend contrast enhancement and labeling techniques, or providing resources for equipment that may make tasks easier that best matches the individual’s goals.
Some Low vision devices that may be recommended include:
- Spectacle‐mounted magnifiers (as prescribed by the Optometrist)
- Hand‐held, head mounted and stand magnifiers
- Electronic Magnifiers or portable electronic enlarges
- Video magnification – table‐top (closed‐circuit television)
- Large‐print books, magazines, and newspapers
- Books‐on‐tape or Optical Character Recognition (OCR) text to speech software resources
- High contrast kitchen Utensils
- Resource assistance for many other useful devices