Age and chronic medical conditions can have a negative impact on vision. In some cases, the level of impairment exceeds the ability of corrective lenses to compensate for diminished vision. Vision impairment of this magnitude requires care from an optometrist with experience in vision rehabilitation who can help to improve the patient's quality of life by managing their vision loss.
Indicators of Low Vision
If your vision is blurry, even with prescription glasses or contacts, you make have experienced vision loss, also known as low vision. Driving, reading, watching TV, and using a computer become difficult when you cannot see clearly. Low vision can also make faces appear blurry, diminishing the ability to recognize people, distinguish speech, or detect facial expressions.
Vision loss can result in general blurriness or a range of specific types of vision impairment. Some people experience vision loss in their central field of vision, while others have blurred peripheral vision. Colors can become difficult to discern. It may become harder to see in low-light conditions, causing night blindness. Some people experience a haziness to their vision, while others may become more sensitive to glare from light.
Conditions That Cause Low Vision
The aging process can cause eye conditions that result in low vision. Cataracts cause portions of the lens to become opaque or cloudy. Glaucoma occurs when excess pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve, resulting in the loss of peripheral vision. Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive condition that gradually diminishes clear vision and makes objects appear distorted. People who have diabetes may experience damage to the blood vessels that supply the retina, resulting in blurred vision or seeing spots.
Eye conditions that impact vision loss can be detected by a dilated eye exam, performed by an optometrist. Eye drops administered to dilate, or widen the pupil, allows the optometrist to look into the eye for signs of disease or degeneration. If a patient experiences vision loss even while wearing glasses or contacts, the optometrist can suggest special lenses to help maintain or improve vision. In some cases, treatment options may include referral to an ophthalmologic specialist.
Aids to Compensate for Low Vision
Some types of vision loss can be treated with drugs or surgery. However, in many cases, low vision cannot be improved by medical interventions. Instead, optometrists can prescribe devices and vision aids to allow patients to make the most of their vision. Magnifying lenses attached to eyeglasses improve visual acuity and keep the hands free for writing a note or list. Hand-held or eyeglass-mounted telescoping lenses can help patients see distant objects more clearly, such as watching TV. Lens systems can also help with viewing a computer monitor or tablet. These magnifiers can be used as a tabletop device or attached to a headband. Contact your optometrist to explore options to help compensate for vision loss.