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February is Low Vision Awareness Month. Did you know that millions of Americans are living with some sort of visual impairment? Low vision isn’t one of the most well-known terms when it comes to eyesight, so this awareness event is definitely needed. A local Lake Stevens, WA optometrist offers some insight on this topic below.
The term low vision means a loss of visual acuity. It doesn’t represent total blindness, though some people with low vision do eventually go blind. Low vision is an umbrella term that encompasses many different issues.
Visual impairments have been divided into several categories. These go by the vision in the better eye, with the use of glasses or contacts.
These are as follows:
Visual impairment can also be based on loss of peripheral vision, but we’ll discuss that another time.
There are many types of low vision. Some affect the central vision, while others affect the side vision.
Here are a list of the most frequently seen ones:
These also describe some of the common symptoms that can indicate vision loss. If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, contact your optometrist right away to schedule an eye exam.
Unfortunately, low vision is usually permanent. Common measures, such as glasses, contacts, medicine, or surgery, may help, but do not usually correct the problem. That said, it’s important to realize that even mild or temporary improvement can make a huge difference. Low vision makes it difficult for people to carry on with everyday tasks, such as reading, driving, or cooking.
There are devices that can help those with low vision retain their independence and quality of life. For some, vision rehabilitation can also help.
Small telescopes can be used for seeing objects that are a bit further away than one would use a magnifying glass to see. One example would be someone using a handheld telescope to watch TV. Some can be used for close tasks, such as reading. Others can be used for driving, though this varies by state.
You can also get devices that will electronically magnify objects using video. These are good because they allow you to adjust color, contrast, brightness, and zoom. These systems come in many forms.
There are also many products that are made to accommodate those with low vision. These include things such as large-print books, speech translation, audio books, smartwatches, and various gadgets and appliances.
Low vision can be caused by many different medical issues. Here are some of the most common ones.
Macular degeneration is an age-related condition, in which part of the retina—which focuses images on the back of the eye–degenerates. The condition is marked by blurriness and blind spots, usually in the middle of one’s field of vision.
There are two kinds of macular degeneration: dry and wet. In the dry (non-exudative) form, which is the more common type, vision loss happens slowly. The wet (exudative) form, which gets its name because fluid often leaks from the eye, the loss of vision is faster and more severe.
Cataracts are characterized by that tell-tale clouding of the eye’s lens, which interferes with the way light passes through the eye. There are many possible causes for cataracts, including UV light, injury, disease, and genetics. While cataracts can in many cases be addressed by surgery, there are some cases where this isn’t an option.
Glaucoma is an issue with eye pressure, which is caused by problems with blood flow to the optic nerve. It is particularly concerning because it is asymptomatic at first. While it can be treated by drugs or surgery early on, it is the most common cause of blindness in the world. Early symptoms include trouble with side vision and night vision.
One of the reasons diabetes is taken so seriously is the fact that it can lead to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that is associated with leaks in the blood vessels in the retina. This can impact one’s vision and can eventually damage the eye. In severe cases, the condition can cause blindness. While diabetic retinopathy can be addressed with surgery, which is often done utilizing lasers, if the blood sugar isn’t controlled, the condition will only worsen.
Low vision can also be caused by inherited retinal diseases, which are also known as IRDs. Some of these include Retinitis pigmentosa, Choroideremia, Stargardt Disease, Cone-rod Dystrophy, and Leber Congenital Amaurosis.
There may be hope for treatment for some of these, even if it isn’t in the near future. There are currently clinical trials and tests being conducted on many genetic issues. For now, patients may be referred to genetic counseling and IRD specialists, as well as low-vision specialists.
Low vision can also be brought on by issues with how the eye develops. Amblyopia is a term for when the eyes and vision systems don’t develop properly during childhood. Another possible cause is ROP, or Retinopathy of Prematurity, which is sometimes seen in preemies, and is caused by the elevated oxygen levels in incubators.
While we may never find cures for all possible forms of blindness, we are making progress with new options and treatments every year. Currently, there are quite a few different types of low vision care.
Some of these include the devices we mentioned above, such as optical and electronic magnification devices, assistive technology, and audio-based technology.
Additional services may also be necessary. For instance, you may be referred to a social worker or occupational therapist, a support group, or a daily living instructor. As you may know, guide dogs can also be a wonderful source of help.
Ask your Lake Stevens, WA optometrist for more information.
There’s no simple yes or no question for this: it ultimately depends on the type, severity, and progression of the condition. State requirements may also vary from place to place. That said, those with low vision may be eligible for disability benefits and/or Social Security.
In Conclusion: Low vision affects millions of Americans, and can have a significant impact on one’s independence and overall quality of life. Visit Your Lake Stevens, WA vision care center regularly for regular exams and screening.
Do you need to schedule an eye exam? Are you due for a new pair of glasses or frames? Please contact us here at Grandview Optometry, your Lake Stevens, WA eye care center.