What is low vision?

Low vision is a loss of eyesight that makes everyday tasks difficult. A person with low vision may find it difficult or impossible to accomplish activities such as reading, writing, shopping, watching television, driving a car or recognizing faces.

What causes low vision?

A variety of disorders that affect the eye and the visual system may cause low vision. Birth defects, injuries, certain diseases of the body and aging all may lead to loss of sight. Most commonly, it is due to scarring because of deterioration of the central part of the retina (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye), known as macular degeneration. Loss of sight may also result from other conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma, or from damage to the optic nerve, which carries visual images to the brain.

Diagnosing low vision

Since there are many diseases and conditions that can result in low vision, it is important to have a comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry. Once the cause of low vision is identified, your optometrist may refer you to other low-vision and rehabilitation specialists or suggest low-vision aids such as magnifying glasses or special, strong reading glasses. There are also many other helpful devices that are not optical devices, including large-print books, magazines, newspapers, playing cards and telephone dials, and large-character calculators. Increased lighting that is properly positioned is essential. Tinted lenses are sometimes used to reduce glare from bright sunlight. Electronic aids such as closed-circuit television systems with built-in magnification and computerized reading devices are also useful in some circumstances.

Talk to your doctor of optometry for more information.