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Be more independent with low vision

Created date

January 23rd, 2014

Of the five special senses—taste, touch, smell, hearing, and vision—it is vision that we most heavily rely and depend upon. This is truer than ever with visual media, computers, and smartphones playing a more dominant role in our lives every day. A loss of vision can have a profound impact on our well-being and result in a decline in our physical, social, and emotional health.

Low vision, or partial vision loss, becomes more common as we age. The prevalence ranges from 2% among people age 70 to 74 to as much as 17% for adults over the age of 80. 

Common causes of low vision are glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration. Regardless of the cause, people with low vision may have impaired visual acuity, limited color sensitivity, and a decreased field of vision. Permanent visual impairment can result in social isolation and depression as loss of eyesight is often associated with loss of independence, which is so important to us all.

What you can do

If you notice a change in your vision, please make an appointment to see your physician or an ophthalmologist. Many of the conditions that affect eyesight are treatable, and a routine eye exam every year or two should already be a part of your prevention plan. If you are found to have visual impairment that remains significant even with treatment, then maximizing your useable vision becomes the primary goal. To help, you can take a number of simple steps such as improving lighting, reducing glare, and organizing items in your environment. You can also use magnifiers, which are available in different sizes and powers. Some of the options include hand-held magnifiers, stand magnifiers, and high-powered spectacles. There are also large-print items available such as books, phone dials, and TV remotes.

Advances in technology make life easier for people with low vision and rely on your ears instead of your eyes.  Closed-circuit televisions have been around for a while, and talking clocks, phones, and calculators now work well. E-readers, tablets, smartphones, and a number of software applications can help dictate emails, decipher denominations on currency, and read text on labels and products. While most insurance companies do not cover low-vision aids, many states have commissions for the blind that provide equipment at no cost to qualifying individuals.

If you have difficulty reading, problems recognizing familiar faces, or difficulty seeing objects, including potential hazards such as steps, curbs, or uneven surfaces, you may have low vision. Many of the causes are treatable and there are many aids which can help maintain your independence.