About 18 million people in the United States experience severe vision loss which can be classified as legally blind or partially sighted. This means that they experience a significant reduction in visual function that cannot be fully corrected by ordinary glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment, or surgery. Low vision affects people of all ages and impacts their daily activities such as reading, cooking, taking medication, or watching television.
What People with Low Vision See
Family members or friends with normal vision have a hard time understanding what someone with low vision can see. Each picture below shows two children playing on a staircase. Each picture looks different depending upon the cause of vision loss simulated.
• This picture shows two children playing on a staircase
Central Field Loss
• A hazy or dark hole appears in the center of objects.
• Causes include macular degeneration and optic atrophy
Multiple field losses
• Scattered dark patches or holes appear around objects.
• Causes include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, retinal detachment and trauma.
• Loss of peripheral vision causes a restricted field of vision. Objects in the center remain visible.
• Causes include glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa and stroke.
Contrast loss and glare problems
• Objects blend in with the background; lights are distracting or uncomfortable.
• Causes include cataracts, glaucoma, corneal disease and albinism.
Some additional symptoms may include:
• Blurred vision
• Objects appear out of focus.
• Causes include macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts or corneal disease.
• Objects appear crooked, wavy or doubled.
• Causes include macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment.
To be referred to any organization near you, please contact 314-961-8235.
• Partially sighted - best-corrected visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the good eye. Even when wearing regular corrective lenses, partially sighted people cannot read standard newsprint, or see expressions on a person's face.
• Legally blind - best-corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less, or a visual field of no more than 20 degrees, is defined as legally blind.
• Functional blindness – the absence of any usable vision. Only about 1 in 10 visually impaired people are functionally blind. Most have some usable vision.
• Low vision or visually impaired – terms used to describe people with significant vision loss that cannot be corrected medically or surgically. These vision problems impact work, school, recreation and other activities of daily living. People who are partially sighted and/or legally blind are often described using these terms.
Common Causes of Vision Loss
• Cataracts - a clouding of the eye’s lens that diminishes vision.
• Diabetic retinopathy - small blood vessels that nourish the eye’s light-sensitive retina weaken and change. Visual symptoms depend on where the blood vessel changes are taking place in your eye’s retina.
• Glaucoma - fluid that does not properly drain causes pressure within the eye that can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. Glaucoma affects side vision before central vision is affected.
• Macular degeneration - damage to the part of the retina (back of the eye) responsible for central vision and the ability to see detail. The dry form is caused by the thinning of the tissues of the macula; the wet form occurs when abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eye hemorrhage. Optic atrophy - a degeneration of the optic nerve, the fibers that transmit electrical information from the retina to the brain where it is translated into vision, that leads to loss of clarity or changes in the field of vision, or both.
• Retinitis pigmentosa - a hereditary eye disorder causing gradual destruction of the retina. Sight loss is usually gradual but progressive.
Types of Eye Care Professionals
• Ophthalmologist – a medical doctor trained in vision and eye diseases who is licensed to perform surgery on the eyeball. Individuals with serious vision problems need to see their ophthalmologist regularly to insure their condition does not become more severe.
• Optometrist - trained in vision and eye diseases and can prescribe corrective lenses and diagnose eye diseases, but do not perform surgery.
• Optician - a technician who makes and fits corrective lenses.
• Functional vision exam - an exam by a low vision specialist that determines the extent of a person’s remaining sight. Presently, fewer than 5% of all eye doctors specialize in low vision.
• Vision rehabilitation – tools and training to help people with significant vision loss maintain their independence. The vision loss is permanent but the ability to perform daily living tasks with impaired sight is learned or relearned in vision rehabilitation.
• Vision loss counseling - forums for individuals to meet with licensed clinical therapists to address their emotional needs, problems and successes.
• Adaptive or assistive technology – terms used for technology that uses magnification, contrast, synthesized speech, and/or lighting to maximize a person’s remaining sight.
• Optical low vision aids - prescribed optical devices such as bioptic glasses, often specially created by the doctor to help reach a person’s visual goals, or electronic devices, such as the closed circuit television (CCTV), scanners and computer software.
• Non-optical low vision aids - items designed to promote independent living, such as talking calculators, talking alarm clocks and watches, signature or check writing guides, large print checks and calendars. Our store carries a variety of large print and talking items.
• Independent living skills - training in adaptive techniques for cooking, grooming, labeling and money management can increase independence. Instruction takes place in the home or in a structured classroom setting.
• Orientation and mobility training – training in safe and independent travel skills around your home, your neighborhood or your office.
Online Vision Simulations
Vision Simulation Products
Zimmerman Low Vision Simulation Kit
Fork in the Road