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February is Low Vision Awareness Month

Posted Feb 04 2013 5:00am

What is low vision?

Low vision is a term used to describe significant visual impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment or surgery.  Patients may be classified as having low vision due to a decrease in visual acuity — what they can read on the eye chart — or due to other visual problems that interfere with their day-to-day life, such as decreased visual field (loss of side vision), sensitivity to light or distorted vision.  Many diseases, either acquired or congenital, are associated with low vision.  Some common examples include glaucoma , macular degeneration , diabetic retinopathy , retinitis pigmentosa, or vision loss after a patient suffers a stroke.

Dr. Chris Kenrick

The goal of low vision therapy is to help the patient make the most of their remaining vision.  Low vision therapy does not restore lost vision, but rather improves how a patient functions with their existing sight.  Patients still need to be seen regularly by their current doctor to monitor and treat the underlying condition.

What can be done as low vision therapy?

Low vision therapy may consist of specialty optical devices — such as filters, telescopes, magnifiers, or electronic readers — but will also explore adaptive strategies for activities of daily living.  Common strategies include discussions on lighting and positioning of reading material, scanning techniques for field loss, and the importance of developing a support network.

- Written by Chris Kenrick, O.D., F.A.A.O., Krieger Eye Institute , Sinai Hospital

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