WHAT IS LOW VISION?
Low vision is generally considered to be vision poor enough to keep someone from being able to read the newspaper while wearing their regular glasses. Visual acuity that results in this type of impairment can range anywhere from 20/20 (with a very constricted visual field) to 20/400 or worse, depending on what is causing the poor vision.
WHO CAN BE HELPED BY LOW VISION REHABILITATION?
- People whose vision cannot be improved by medical or surgical treatment.
- People who can no longer read comfortably or carry out routine tasks of daily living.
Low vision specialists enable people to make the most of their vision through the use of specially designed optical systems, counseling, training, and social services. Using a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation, they make every effort to help patients regain greater independence.
WHAT CAUSES LOW VISION IMPAIRMENT?
Low Vision Impairment is caused by a variety of diseases or conditions. Macular degeneration heads the list, accounting for about 65% to 75% of patients requesting vision rehabilitation. Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, hereditary retinal degenerations or diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, Albinism, Lebers Optic Neuropathy, Bests Disease and other conditions such as stroke or brain tumors make up the rest of the list.
WHAT CAN I DO TO COPE WITH VISION LOSS?
Work closely with your vision specialist. Don’t give up on seeing your eye specialist even if they say “nothing more can be done”. This statement should be amended to “nothing more can be done medically, or surgically – for now”. Researchers are working very hard to develop treatments and cures for eye diseases. There are treatments that are in use or under study today that were unknown five years ago.
Losing your vision can be a terrifying and depressing experience. Many people have never even heard of macular degeneration and all of a sudden it seems to be an overwhelming obstacle. Talking with someone who has had Low Vision Rehabilitation can be extremely reassuring. Many people who lose vision to macular degeneration or other eye diseases go through a grieving process that can, and usually does, include denial, anger, and depression. The classic stages of grieving, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance are often seen in people who develop vision loss. Their families and friends and co-workers need to understand this in order to be supportive of the changes that they see in their family member or friend. The more motivated a person is regarding rehabilitation, the more successful they are apt to be and the quicker they are to regain their sense of self. A friend or support group can help you through this process, and, best of all, it’s really nice to talk with someone else who shares your problems.
WHAT IS A LOW VISION SPECIALIST?
A Low Vision Rehabilitation Specialist is an optometrist or ophthalmologist who has been trained in Low Vision Rehabilitation. There are other professionals who specialize in specific aspects of low vision rehabilitation such as occupational therapists, orientation and mobility instructors. Low Vision Rehabilitation is available in most major medical centers and, in some cases, in private practices. Ask your retina specialist or eye doctor about referring you to a low vision specialist.
WHAT HAPPENS IN LOW VISION REHABILITATION?
A Low Vision evaluation begins with a comprehensive history. This includes a medical, drug, social, work, and vision history. A meticulous refraction is then done to determine the patient’s best possible visual acuity. Additional tests are done to determine what is needed to enable the patient to read. This correction may range from a simple pair of reading glasses to a magnifier or a complex system such as a tele-microscope or CCTV (closed-circuit TV).
Other areas of the patient’s lifestyle are addressed such as work needs, hobbies, social needs, recreational needs, financial, and personal needs. For example, complex systems can be designed for someone who works on a computer and who needs large print or voice-activated programs. Every effort is made to enable the individual to continue working at his/her present job, or, if necessary, retraining individuals in new areas of employment.
Low Vision Rehabilitation is an approach to making the best possible use of the healthy vision remaining in the eye. The Low Vision Specialist has at their disposal an array of devices designed to help the visually impaired see better. These can include magnifiers, microscopic lenses, telescopes, electronic devices such as closed-circuit TV’s and, even virtual imagery. Proper lighting, used in the proper manner, bold-lined writing utensils and paper, large-print books and magazines, large-print checks and many other useful devices can help when it comes to coping with vision loss.
WILL LOW VISION REHABILITATION CURE MACULAR DEGENERATION OR ANY OTHER DISEASE- OR EVEN MAKE IT BETTER?
Low Vision Rehabilitation in no way affects the physical condition of the eye. It cannot make the disease better and it cannot make it worse. The goal of Low Vision Rehabilitation is to learn to use the remaining, healthy, vision as effectively as possible. You cannot hurt your eyes by using them. You will not wear them out or use up the vision that you have left. Neither can you “save” your eyes by not using them. Until there is a cure for your eye disease, Low Vision Rehabilitation is your best strategy for coping with decreased vision.