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Learn about Low Vision

What is Low Vision?

When ordinary eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery cannot provide sharp vision, an individual is said to have low vision. Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma, Stargardt’s Disease , Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), along with many other eye diseases, are causes of visual impairment or low vision.

People with decreased vision still have useful vision and should seek out the care of an eye doctor who specializes in low vision rehabilitation.

Is low vision common?

Yes! Having Low Vision is actually the third most commonly occurring physical impairment in those over 65, exceeded only by heart disease and arthritis.

Difficulty reading was the most common complaint, reported by 66.4 percent of patients. Other functional difficulties included driving (27.8 percent), using magnifiers and other vision aids (17.5 percent), mobility (16.3 percent), performing normal in-home activities (15.1 percent), problems associated with lighting and glare (11.7 percent), and trouble recognizing faces and engaging socially (10.3 percent).

Many who are visually impaired have found help with their visual problem through Low Vision Care.

What causes Low Vision?

Medical conditions, birth defects and trauma are the major causes of low vision.


Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in our senior population, both wet and dry types. In the dry form, the cells in and around the macular portion of the retina break down and cease function. There is no cure and no way to replace those damaged cells. The wet form is caused by fragile blood vessels that leak fluid between the retinal layers at the macula. The goal of treatment is to stop the leakage and prevent further leakage.

Cataracts are part of the natural aging process of the eye in which the clear lens becomes cloudy. Surgery to remove and replace the lens is a common treatment and highly successful. In some cases when surgery is too risky, low vision devices can be useful.

Diabetic Retinopathy is a major cause of vision loss directly related to blood sugar. Blood vessels in the retina leak, causing cell damage and vision loss. Regulating blood sugar is critical. Laser photocoagulation has been used to limit damage and, recently, injections of Avastin, Leucentis and Eylea have been successful as well.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. Glaucoma is characterized by an increase in the pressure inside the eye. In the more rare acute form, severe pain is present causing the person to seek medical care. In the chronic form, often called “the sneak thief of sight,” there are no symptoms until significant peripheral vision loss occurs. For this reason, regularly scheduled eye examinations are essential.


Retinitis Pigmentosa is a group of inherited conditions causing night blindness and peripheral vision loss. Low vision devices are helpful in some cases.

Stargardt’s disease is an inherited form of juvenile macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss usually to the point of legal blindness. The progression usually starts between the ages of six and twelve years old. Symptoms typically develop by twenty years of age, and include wavy vision, blind spots, blurriness, impaired color vision, and difficulty adapting to dim lighting. Low vision devices have been extremely beneficial.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease of the eye affecting prematurely-born babies generally having received intensive neonatal care. ROP can be mild and may resolve spontaneously, but it may lead to blindness in serious cases.


Strokes and traumatic brain injury are the most common traumatic causes of vision loss.

Simulation of Visual Impairment

  • Normal Vision

  • Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Glaucoma

  • Hemianopsia

  • Macular Degeneration

  • Retinitis Pigmentosa

  • Cataract

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