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How Do I Know If I Have Low Vision?

July 29 2022

Have you ever walked into a room and not been able to see the person you were looking for? Or maybe you’ve seen a person in a crowd but couldn’t tell who they were. That’s what low vision is like—and it’s something that can happen to anyone, at any time.

Read on as a Marysville, WA optometrist discusses low vision and the various signs and symptoms associated with this condition.

What Is Low Vision?

Low vision is the term used to describe a range of eye conditions that can make it difficult to see. The term is also used to describe conditions that affect your ability to focus on objects or use your eyes.

As we age, our eyesight gets weaker and weaker, which means we have less ability to see objects in our environment. We might notice this loss of vision in everyday life when trying to read an important document or watching TV with poor quality resolution, but low vision can also make it harder for us to do things we take for granted—like drive safely or read street signs while driving on unfamiliar streets.

Symptoms of Low Vision

The following are some of the symptoms of low vision:

  • Blurry or hazy vision. This can happen when your retina has been damaged by disease or injury, as well as with normal aging.
  • Difficulty seeing at night or in dim light. This occurs because the retina is damaged and it no longer sends information to the optic nerve correctly.
  • Poor peripheral (side) vision. Even if you have good central (straight ahead) vision, you may still be unable to see objects on either side of your field of view very well because the nerve pathways for peripheral vision are usually different from those for central vision.

Who’s Most at Risk?

It’s not just older people!

Low vision is more common than you might think—and it affects people across the age spectrum. In fact, the incidence of low vision increases with age, but it can also occur at any age due to disease or injury.

People who are at high risk of low vision include those who:

  • Have diabetes or other retinal diseases
  • Have had a stroke
  • Have macular degeneration or other eye diseases that cause loss of central vision
  • Have glaucoma or cataracts that cause blurred vision

The good news is that there are treatments available to help people with low vision maintain their independence and quality of life. The first step toward treating your low vision is getting a proper diagnosis from an eye doctor.

Our Advice on How Do You Know If You Have Low Vision in 2024

What is low vision, and how does it affect daily activities?

Low vision is a condition characterized by significant visual impairment that cannot be fully corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery. It encompasses a variety of limitations, such as reduced visual acuity, poor peripheral vision, and difficulty seeing in low light. This impairment affects daily activities by making reading, recognizing faces, driving, and navigating environments challenging. Tasks that rely on visual cues become difficult, impacting independence and quality of life. Individuals with low vision often require specialized visual aids and adaptive techniques to perform everyday activities and maintain autonomy.

What are the common symptoms of low vision?

Common symptoms of low vision include blurry or hazy vision, difficulty seeing at night or in dim light, and a noticeable decrease in peripheral (side) vision. Individuals may struggle to read, recognize faces, or distinguish details in their environment. Challenges in navigating unfamiliar places, identifying colors, and experiencing increased sensitivity to light are also prevalent. These symptoms can significantly hinder daily tasks, such as driving, reading street signs, and performing activities that require sharp vision, leading to a need for specialized support or visual aids to improve function and safety.

What conditions can lead to blurry or hazy vision?

Blurry or hazy vision can be caused by various conditions, including refractive errors (such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism), cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Other contributing factors may include diabetes leading to diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, and corneal abrasions or infections. Certain medications and neurological conditions can also affect visual clarity. Identifying the underlying cause through a comprehensive eye examination is crucial, as early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further vision impairment and improve overall eye health.

What causes poor peripheral vision, and how does it affect one’s field of view?

Poor peripheral vision, or loss of side vision, can result from conditions such as glaucoma, stroke, retinitis pigmentosa, and brain injuries affecting the visual pathways. This reduced ability to see objects at the edges of one’s visual field leads to a phenomenon often described as “tunnel vision,” where the central vision may remain intact. In contrast, the side vision is significantly compromised. This limitation can affect daily activities by making it challenging to navigate environments, recognize hazards, and perform tasks that require a broad field of view, impacting overall spatial awareness and safety.

What steps should be taken for a proper diagnosis of low vision?

For a proper diagnosis of low vision, the first step is to schedule a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. During the exam, the eye care professional will assess visual acuity, peripheral vision, and eye health. They may use specialized tests to evaluate contrast sensitivity, color vision, and the ability to see in low-light conditions. It’s also important to discuss any specific challenges faced in daily activities. Based on the findings, the practitioner can diagnose low vision and recommend appropriate interventions, aids, or referrals to low vision specialists for further management and support.

If you have more questions or wish to schedule an eye exam, please feel free to call our Marysville, WA optometry office anytime.

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Grandview Optometry


16616 Twin Lakes Ave
Marysville, WA 98271
(Inside Marysville/Smokey Point Costco)


Monday-Friday: 10:00am-6:30pm
Saturday:  9:30am-5:00pm
Sunday: Closed

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