Low vision

Low vision is a condition that exists when ordinary eyeglasses, contact lenses or intraocular lens implants do not provide clear vision. Not to be confused with blindness, people with low vision still have useful vision that can often be improved with visual devices. The terms “legally blind” or “partially sighted” are often used in association with low vision. A person is considered legally blind when the best corrected vision in the better eye is no more than 20/200 and/or the field of view is less than 20 degrees. A person with best-corrected vision of no more than 20/70 in the better eye is considered partially sighted or visually impaired.

Though most often experienced by mature adults (60+), people of all ages may be affected with low vision because of birth defects, inherited diseases, injuries, diabetes, glaucoma, or cataracts. The most common cause of low vision is age-related macular degeneration, a disease of the retina that affects central, or straight-ahead, vision. Low vision may also result from decreased side (peripheral) vision or a loss of color vision. Or, the eye might lose the ability to adjust to light, contrast or glare. Different types of low vision may require different kinds of assistance.

For those who experience the symptoms of low vision, a complete eye examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist is essential. Once the causes are determined, the doctor can suggest various treatments including the use of low-vision devices, or the eye care professional may refer the patient to a low-vision specialist or agency for help.

Patient History

The low-vision examination begins with a complete medical history, including address and telephone numbers, insurance information, names of other doctors, list of medications being taken and past medical records if available. Because the exam includes dilating the eyes, it’s a good idea to bring sunglasses to wear during the trip home.

In addition, the practitioner may ask for input from other health care providers or therapists, family members and teachers, as is appropriate and permitted by the patient. Included in this information will be the nature and duration of the problems, visual difficulties and chief complaint, ocular and visual history, general health history, medications, allergies, and any relevant data regarding occupation and avocation.

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