What is low vision? Basically, “low vision” describes significant visual impairment that can’t be corrected fully with glasses, contact lenses, medication or eye surgery. It includes:
- Loss of best-corrected visual acuity (BVCA) to worse than 20/70 in the better eye.
- Significant visual field loss. Tunnel vision (lack of vision in the periphery) and blind spots are examples of visual field loss.
- Legal blindness. In North America this is 20/200 or less central visual acuity in the better eye with best possible correction, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.
- Almost total blindness.
In 2010 the prevalence of visual disability in the United States was 2.1 percent. This includes both low vision and total blindness.
Causes of Low Vision
Eye diseases are a common cause of low vision:
- Hazy, blurry vision can result from cataracts.
- Blurred or partially obscured central vision is typical of macular degeneration.
- Diabetic retinopathy causes blind spots, blurriness and visual distortions.
- Poor peripheral vision is a hallmark of glaucoma.
- Retinitis pigmentosa reduces peripheral vision and the ability to see in the dark.
- Light sensitivity and loss of contrast are other symptoms of these and other diseases.
Heredity and eye injuries also can result in low vision.
The Impact of Low Vision
Children as well as adults can be visually impaired, sometimes because of a birth defect or an injury. Children with low vision may have problems in learning concepts, and they need special instruction from their earliest years on. They also need additional help with socialization among other children and adults.
But low vision more commonly affects adults and seniors. Their vision loss can be very traumatic, leading to frustration and depression.
Losing the ability to drive safely, read quickly, watch television or view a computer screen can cause people with low vision to feel shut off from the world. They may be unable to get around town independently or shop for food and other necessities.
Many people with low vision also have difficulty making a living, as the following statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2010 illustrate:
- In 2010 the employment rate for visually disabled Americans ages 21-64 (working age) was only 37.2 percent. The full-time/full-year employment rate was 24 percent. And of those without a job, only 13.5 percent were actively looking for work.
- The median annual income of households including any working-age visually disabled person was $33,400, versus $59,400 for households with no disabled people of working age.
- Individual poverty rates were 29.5 percent for visually disabled people vs. 11.9 percent of those with no disability.
Some visually impaired people become very dependent on friends and relatives, while others suffer alone. That’s a shame, because many ingenious low vision devices are available to help people overcome vision impairment and live independently.
What to Do About Low Vision??
If you have a vision impairment that interferes with your ability to perform everyday activities and enjoy life, your first step is to see an eye care professional for a complete eye exam.
Or it could mean you are developing a cataract that needs removal. Whatever the case, it’s wise to take action before further vision loss occurs.
We hope this article has inspired you to visit your local optometrist. Your vision is priceless and a thirty minute appointment once a year is certainly something you should be able to commit too. Getting your eyes tested regularly will help you stay on top of your general health, eye problems.
Want to schedule an eye exam at 20/20 Eyeglass Superstore? You can schedule an eye exam online here, or call 386-774-5000