Feb 20, 2024

February is Low Vision Month

February is Low Vision Month


There are a few ways to define low vision. I think of it as having vision that is not good enough to perform activities of daily living despite best correction with glasses, contacts, or surgery. Meaning, that there isn’t a simple fix through glasses or cataract surgery (or any other surgery).

Many conditions can lead to low vision, with macular degeneration being one of the leading causes, especially in older adults. Other causes may be glaucoma, diabetes-related eye disease, cornea problems, retinal detachment, and there are others.

Cataracts should not be a cause of low vision, as they can nearly always be treated with surgery.

Symptoms of low vision are any decrease in visual function. It could be decreased visual acuity (not being able to see “small” things), decrease in contrast sensitivity (not being able to distinguish subtle shades of gray), decreased color vision, and decreased peripheral vision just to name a few.

The first step in low vision is to have a regular comprehensive eye exam to know that you don’t just need glasses or contacts. If your vision can’t be corrected, you may be referred to a low-vision specialist. Very few eye doctors do low-vision evaluations. It may not be easy to find one in your area, but it is worth looking at or getting a referral.

A low vision evaluation will be different in that it doesn’t involve medical testing and is based on rechecking glasses numbers and trying to find devices to help you function.
Some of the different options your low vision specialist may recommend may include magnifiers, digital magnifiers, “reading machines”, devices that utilize optical character recognition to read print to you, lighting, colored filters, coatings on glasses, higher power reading glasses, and there are more. It is important to note that there are many different types and powers of magnifiers, and it is only with the help of an expert that you can expect to have the best outcome with them.

It is also important to consider joining a support group, finding a resource like the Macular Degeneration Association (MDA) to keep up to date on research, and seeking help when needed through family or professionals for mental health struggles like anxiety or depression.

Jeffry D. Gerson, O.D., F.A.A.O.

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