Common Types of Low Vision
At Eye Care Specialists in Northeastern Pennsylvania, these are the most common types of low vision cases we see:
Loss of Central Vision - The loss of central vision creates a blur or blind spot, but side (peripheral) vision remains intact. This makes it difficult to read, recognize faces, and distinguish most details in the distance. Mobility, however, is usually unaffected because side vision remains intact.
Loss of Peripheral (Side) Vision - Loss of peripheral vision is typified by an inability to distinguish anything to one side or both sides, or anything directly above and/or below eye level. Central vision remains, however, making it possible to see directly ahead. Typically, loss of peripheral vision may affect mobility and if severe, can slow reading speed as a result of seeing only a few words at a time. This is sometimes referred to as “tunnel vision.”
Blurred Vision - Blurred vision causes both near and far to appear to be out of focus, even with the best conventional spectacle correction possible.
Generalized Haze - Generalized haze causes the sensation of a film or glare that may extend over the entire viewing field.
Extreme Light Sensitivity – Extreme light sensitivity exists when standard levels of illumination overwhelm the visual system, producing a washed out image and/or glare disability. People with extreme light sensitivity may actually suffer pain or discomfort from relatively normal levels of illumination.
Night Blindness - Night blindness results in inability to see outside at night under starlight or moonlight, or in dimly lighted interior areas such as movie theaters or restaurants.
Low Vision Exam
Our optometrists will ask for a complete personal and family general health and eye health history. In addition, our optometrists will discuss the functional problems with you, including such things as reading, functioning in the kitchen, glare problems, travel vision, the workplace, television viewing, school requirements, and hobbies and interests.
Preliminary tests may include assessment of ocular functions such as color vision and contrast sensitivity. Measurements will be taken of your visual acuity using special low vision test charts, which include a larger range of letters or numbers to more accurately determine a starting point for determining the level of impairment. Visual fields may also be evaluated. A specialized refraction must be performed and each eye will be thoroughly examined.
Our optometrists may prescribe various treatment options, including low vision devices, as well as assist the person with identifying other resources for vision and lifestyle rehabilitation.
Few people are totally without sight. Most individuals today classified as “blind” actually have remaining sight and, thanks to developments in the field of low vision rehabilitation, can be helped to make good use of it, improving their quality of life.
In the United States, any person with vision that cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in the best eye, or who has 20 degrees or less of visual field remaining, is considered legally blind.
Visual impairments take many forms and exist in varying degrees. It is important to understand that visual acuity alone is not a good predictor of the degree of problems a person may have. Someone with relatively good acuity (e.g., 20/40) can have difficulty functioning, while someone with worse acuity (e.g., 20/200) might not be having any real problems.
Low Vision Devices
A wide variety of rehabilitation options are available to help people with low vision live and/or work more effectively, efficiently, and safely. Most people can be helped with one or more low vision treatment options. Only about 20-25 percent of those who could benefit from these treatment options have been seen by a low vision optometrist. The more commonly prescribed devices are:
Spectacle-mounted magnifiers - A magnifying lens is mounted in spectacles (this type of system is called a microscope) or on a special headband. This allows use of both hands to complete the close-up task, such as reading.
Hand-held or spectacle-mounted telescopes - These miniature telescopes are useful for seeing longer distances, such as across the room to watch television, and can also be modified for near (reading) tasks.
Hand-held and stand magnifiers - These can serve as supplements to other specialized systems. They are convenient for short-term reading of things such as price tags, labels, and instrument dials. Both types can be equipped with lights.
Video magnification - Table-top (closed-circuit television) or head-mounted systems enlarge reading material on a video display. Some systems can be used for distance views tasks. These are portable systems, and those that can be used with a computer or monitor. Image brightness, image size, contrast, and foreground/background color and illumination can be customized.
In addition, there are numerous other products to assist those with a vision impairment, such as large-type books, magazines, and newspapers, books-on-tape, talking wristwatches, self-threading needles, and more.
Low Vision Rehabilitation
If you, or someone you know, suffers from a vision impairment, ask our optometrists about low vision rehabilitation. We can provide the help and resources needed to gain back the independence and freedom that once seemed lost. People with low vision can be taught a variety of techniques to perform daily activities with what vision remains. There are government and private programs that offer educational and vocational counseling, occupational therapy, rehabilitation training, and more.
Experts agree that low vision does not have to diminish the quality of life. As of October 1999 both the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology have called for Medicare coverage of low vision rehabilitation services. Many Medicare carriers now have policies in place that cover some of the vision rehabilitation services; ask your optometrist’s office about this type of coverage.
Please contact Eye Care Specialists today to schedule your low vision consultation. We serve patients in Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Kingston, and throughout Northeasern Pennsylvania.